The Associated Press, 5/13/8

The Senate agreed Tuesday to write off — and hand over to taxpayers — more than $17 billion in debt that a FEMA flood insurance program accumulated after being devastated by Katrina and other 2005 hurricanes.

The bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program for five years also includes measures, such as increasing premiums and reducing subsidies, aimed at putting the 40-year-old program on a better financial footing.

The 92-6 vote sends the bill to negotiations with the House, which passed similar legislation last September. With the 2008 hurricane season officially starting on June 1, there’s motivation to move quickly to resolve differences and get the bill to the president’s desk.