Flooded home

A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Spring, Texas. Homeowners suffering from Harvey flood damage are more likely to be on the hook for losses than victims of prior storms, a potentially crushing blow to personal finances and neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast. Experts say far too few homeowners have flood insurance, just two of ten living in Harvey’s path of destruction. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) ORG XMIT: NYBZ213

David J. Phillip

The latest in a steady stream of Congressional retirements won't change the balance of power in Washington. Republican U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling's Dallas area constituents gave 62 percent of their votes to Donald Trump and 65 percent to Mitt Romney, so they're unlikely to send a Democrat to the House.

But Hensarling's departure at the end of his current term, which he announced earlier this week, could change the dynamics for some issues important to Louisiana.

Hensarling is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which has given him a loud voice on things like federal flood insurance and the Export-Import Bank. He doesn't think the federal government should back either, and has worked to limit the flood insurance program's reach and to shut down the bank, which provides credit and loans to American companies that export goods.

Flood-prone, trade-reliant Louisiana depends upon both.

The announcement comes just as the federally-run National Flood Insurance Program is up for reauthorization, although it may be extended again under its old terms. A number of big-picture issues are coming to a head, including the program's debt, its ability to pay claims from this year's major floods, affordability, and policies that wind up encouraging building in high-risk areas.

Many members of Congress and outside groups such as GNO Inc. are looking for ways to make the program more sustainable while still providing the protections residents need. Even though his own state was hit by Hurricane Harvey, Hensarling has retained a hard line aimed at shifting risk off the federal government's books.

In fact, it was Hensarling's resistance that forced advocates seeking to undo the last reform attempt to bypass his committee and bring the matter straight to the floor. The 2014 revision to the Biggert-Waters Act, pushed by a bipartisan coalition including Democrat Cedric Richmond and Republicans Steve Scalise and Bill Cassidy, headed off rate increases that would have been more in line with actuarial risk, but that would have made insurance unaffordable for many customers and made properties requiring this insurance difficult to sell.

Regardless of this year's flood insurance deadline, these issues provoke perennial fights in Congress. And in truth, change at this committee was coming anyway, because Hensarling's term as chair was already scheduled to conclude at the end of 2018.

If he'd stayed on, though, his voice would have still been an influential one. On these locally vital issues, it's one that Louisiana won't miss.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.