By Ledyard King, Florida Today
WASHINGTON (FloridaToday.com) -- Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is asking President Barack Obama to "use his pen" to block federal flood insurance rates that threaten to price tens of thousands of Floridians out of their homes and businesses.
After Scott and other governors met with the Obama at the White House on Monday, Scott told reporters the president should intervene because Congress has been slow to find a solution.
STORY: Is Gov. Scott's meeting with the president a political move?
The Senate has passed a bill that would delay the flood insurance premium increases for four years. The House is working on a modified version that could get a vote later this week. A compromise could still be weeks away, even as property owners face looming deadlines to pay their premiums.
"We've been asking the president to use his pen and stop these unreasonable, unfair increases," Scott told reporters at a Washington street corner three blocks from the White House. "There's a lot of talk in Washington, not enough action. They've been talking about this for months. They haven't passed anything, The president can do this on his own."
The debate is over whether to give relief to the owners of more than 1 million properties nationwide -- including nearly 270,000 in Florida -- covered under the National Flood Insurance Program. The program, which is $24 billion in debt, insures more than 5.5 million residential and commercial policyholders, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The rate increases were created under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The reforms, overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers, were intended to help make the government's flood insurance program financially solvent by bringing rates in line with true flooding risks.
Some conservatives, taxpayer groups and administration officials have said postponing the rate hikes would undermine the 2012 reforms. But Obama has said he won't veto any compromise Congress reaches.
As part of a budget deal passed earlier this year, FEMA will have to wait until at least 2016 to implement premium increases on some properties. But most Florida property owners aren't helped by the deal and still face hikes, some as much as tenfold.
The Sunshine State has been especially hard hit by rate increases. With 268,646 affected properties, Florida far outpaced second-place New Jersey, with 88,601, according to FEMA.
The three counties in the nation with the largest number of property owners facing large increases are all in Florida: Pinellas (50,734), Miami-Dade (47,362), and Lee (30,631), FEMA officials say.
It's unclear what action the president could take to stop the increases. And if he took executive action, he'd risk being accused of undercutting the reforms Congress passed less than two years ago.
Scott also said he asked the president to consider sanctions against Venezuela, where two weeks of anti-government protests have left at least 12 people dead and scores more injured.
And the governor said he raised objections to the administration's announcement last week that it will cut the Medicare Advantage program next year, a move insurance companies say will reduce benefits and options for patients.
Scott did not bring up Medicaid expansion at the meeting -- but the president did.
Obama praised Republican governors who defied critics within their own party and opted to expand Medicaid, the federal program for the poor. Expansion in Florida would add nearly 1 million residents to the rolls.
Scott said he supports expansion, a position he reaffirmed Monday. But advocates for the poor say he's done little to push the issue through the Republican-controlled legislature.
"States that don't expand Medicaid are going to be leaving up to 5.4 million Americans uninsured, and that doesn't have to happen," Obama told the governors. "Work with us to get this done. We can provide a lot of flexibility."
SEE ALSO: Learn more about the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012
Wondering if you're in a high risk flood zone? CLICK to search for your address on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's(FEMA) official Map Service Center.
Once you find the map for your area, use FEMA's "Definitions of FEMA Flood Zone Designations" to better understand what it's showing.
Maps provided by Bay Area counties:
Homeowners face flood insurance crisis in Pinellas Co.
Flood insurance reforms produce crippling premiums
Mayor Foster asks FL Cabinet to delay flood insurance hikes
Tarpon City Commission votes for repeal of flood insurance reform
Floridians facing huge rate hikes for federal flood insurance
Scott seeks to delay to maintain federal flood subsidies
Increasing flood insurance rates has hotel owners worrying
Watch out! Flood insurance rate hikes could be huge
If you want to contact your Congressman:
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R), Dist. 12:
2313 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Kathy Castor (D), Dist. 14:
205 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Rep. Dennis Ross (R), Dist. 15:
229 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-1252
Fax: (202) 226-0585
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R), Dist. 16:
2104 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5015
Fax: (202) 226-0828
Sen. Marco Rubio (R)
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
United States Senate
716 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
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