WASHINGTON – The Senate Tuesday delayed debate on a five-year reauthorization of the nation's flood insurance program after it became mired in an abortion dispute.

WASHINGTON – The Senate Tuesday delayed debate on a five-year reauthorization of the nation’s flood insurance program after it became mired in an abortion dispute.

“I thought we were in a good place with flood insurance, but one Republican senator now wants to hold up flood insurance because he wants a vote on when life begins,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We’re not going to do that.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had sought an amendment to establish that life begins at conception.

Reid said that dealing with the amendment would have consumed too much floor time in a week where they face more immediate issues – expiring laws on transportation programs and student loans.

The Senate was expected to begin debate on a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program with passage likely by the end of the week. The program, which expires July 30, has been operating under 17 short-term extensions.

“The flood bill is a very, very important piece of legislation. It’s something we have to complete – a month from now,” Reid said.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., has opposed the flood insurance bill because it would require most property owners in southeastern Arkansas to purchase flood insurance even though their land is protected by the Mississippi levee system that withstood last year’s record flood.

Pryor said that those protected by such a strong system should not have to purchase flood insurance since they face no realistic risk.

Reid had agreed to allow Pryor to seek an amendment that would have exempted property protected by “certified” levees or dams from the insurance requirement.