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Shutdown Chances Increase Over Disaster Relief, Program Cut Disputes

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The House's funding legislation (known as a 'continuing resolution') provides what Democrats and even some Republicans say is insufficient money for disaster relief. On top of that, the GOP offset that money by slashing over a billion dollars from a program meant to encourage hybrid-vehicle development.

In the Senate today, Democrats and Republicans passed nearly $7 billion in emergency supplemental funds for FEMA with no offsets. House Republicans could ignore that bill and try to jam Democrats with their spending bill: it's our way on emergency FEMA funds, or there's a full government shutdown.

But they can't count on playing that kind of hardball if Flake and House conservatives balk at the overall spending level. That's where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) comes in.

At her weekly Capitol briefing Thursday she warned, "I have two concerns about the continuing resolution. One is that we are setting, I think, a dangerous--and I use that word purposefully--a dangerous precedent by saying that our disaster assistance must be offset. This has never been. It would be a dangerous precedent to set. [Second] I am particularly concerned about the particular offset they have because it is about the future.... I think it is a very bad choice, as do my members."

So can it pass? "That depends on how many Republican votes it gets," she said.

She'll have to act quickly to rein in her members. In a reluctant statement Wednesday evening, the top Dem on the Appropriations Committee, Norm Dicks (D-WA), said, "Despite my concerns, I will support this." But if he does, and House Republicans pass their funding bill, Senate Dems and FEMA could easily find themselves shortchanged.

About The Author

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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