Reid Drives Wedge Between House, Senate GOP Over Disaster Funds

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Funding for the federal government runs out at the end of the month and Congress is set to adjourn for recess at the end of the week. That means the House and Senate have to come to terms in a matter of days over legislation to keep the lights on.

There’s just one problem: they disagree about how much to re-up FEMA’s disaster fund. House Republicans want to provide FEMA with $1 billion in emergency funds (fully offset by cutting a program to incentivize the production of hybrid vehicles) and $2.65 billion as a down payment of sorts on FEMA’s annual disaster funding. The Senate passed stand-alone legislation last week to provide FEMA nearly $7 billion.

On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he will keep pushing the issue.“Tomorrow, when the Senate receives the House bill to fund the government for six more weeks, we will amend it with the language of the Senate FEMA legislation,” Reid said. “This year, President Obama has declared disasters in all but two states, and FEMA is quickly running out of money to help American families and communities recover. Of course, I know this amendment will enjoy the support of my Republican colleagues, as it did just last week, when a bipartisan group of Senators agreed that helping communities destroyed by natural disasters was too important to let politics get in the way.”

The Senate Republicans who voted with Reid last week will have to decide whether to join him again, and hand the funding bill back to House Republicans, or renege, jamming Senate Dems with the House package, but opening themselves to the charge of short-changing disaster victims.

Some House Democrats have already signaled that the can support the House’s bill, so it’s unclear whether they have the upper hand in the legislative fight. But they’re threatening Republicans with a potent political attack they may not want to face right now. And, of course, if neither side budges, the government shuts down. A key dynamic to watch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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