The House passed legislation Thursday afternoon that combines an extension for the Federal Aviation Administration with tax relief for flood victims in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The bill passed by voice vote in a special session after a previous version voted on by members was amended in the Senate to strip out language that would have allowed the privatization of the nation's flood insurance program.
It marked the third time this week the House considered the bill. The legislation was blocked Monday by Democrats under special rules that require two-thirds support for passage, rather than a simple majority.
Democrats opposed it because they objected to the flood reform provision, and because they believed the hurricane resources were too meager. Democrats secured a change to the bill to expand it to include tax breaks for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which were devastated by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"Is this bill perfect? No," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. "We need to do more. This is an important first step."
The FAA bill must be reauthorized or extended by a Sept. 30 deadline.
The legislation extends the law for six months in order to give more time to Republicans who are at odds over how to modernize the FAA.
Some House Republicans back a bill that would spin off air traffic controllers to an independent board, but other Republicans and most Democrats oppose that plan.
The flood insurance provision in the bill drew opposition from Senate Democrats and some Republicans. Authored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, it would open the National Flood Insurance Program to some privatization, which Hensarling said would save money and help get taxpayers off the hook for the insolvent program.
The NFIP currently owes $25 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
"If we had a real competitive market with a multiple of companies advertising and selling multiple policies, more people would become educated about the need for flood insurance and have that rolled into their normal homeowner's policy," Hensarling said. "As folks begin to rebuild, let's get them more affordable flood insurance policies."
But opponents of privatization say it will allow private companies to cherry-pick low risk property owners and leave others with sky-high insurance premiums.
"I just don't think this is the moment to be discussing flood insurance," said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.