Harry Reid earned gentle praise from his GOP counterpart Tuesday for running a good, bipartisan operation these past several weeks. But the Senate may not be able to clear its entire near-term agenda before the Independence day recess because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) won’t allow a measure extending the FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program for five years to move forward until he gets a vote on legislation declaring that human life begins at conception.
“Just trying to get a vote for the people who elected me,” Paul told TPM in the Capitol Tuesday evening. “If he’ll give me a free-standing vote, I’ll take a free-standing vote anytime. He hasn’t been really forthcoming with offering a free-standing vote on it.”
The current NFIP authorization expires at the end of July, right in the middle of hurricane season. And though it’s feasible that the Senate could put a long-term extension to bed well before then, Reid says he won’t let Paul link his “personhood” amendment to a disaster insurance.
“I have been very patient working with my Republican colleagues in allowing relevant amendments on issues, and sometimes we even do non-relevant amendments,” Reid said Tuesday. “But really, on flood insurance? After all the work that’s been put on this bill, this is ridiculous that somebody says ‘I’m not going to let this bill go forward unless I have a vote on when life begins.'”
That leaves Paul exposed to the same political recriminations House Republicans faced last year when they flirted with the idea of requiring that disaster relief funds be offset with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. And while there’s time left for Paul and Senate leaders to work out an alternative arrangement, Reid’s happy to let Paul suffer the consequences in the meantime.
“We’ll either do flood insurance with amendments dealing with flood insurance or we won’t do it,” Reid said.
Paul’s not budging yet.
“Yeah, can you believe that they’re exasperated with me?” Paul jested.