Battle Over Disaster Relief Foils Stopgap Spending Bill

September 21, 2011 1:54 pm

GOP legislation to continue funding the federal government failed in the House Wednesday by a vote of 195-230, after Democrats rejected a controversial measure to nix a popular manufacturing program to offset federal disaster aid.

A successful Democratic whip effort left Republicans without enough support in their caucus to pass the bill along party lines. Over 40 Republicans, demanding steeper cuts to federal programs, rebelled against GOP leadership.Only six Democrats voted in favor of the legislation, a version of which must pass both chambers before September 30, or the government will shut down.

The bill’s failure in the House foils the GOP’s effort to jam the Senate, which recently passed stand alone legislation to provide FEMA significantly more emergency funds, without a partisan budget cut to offset it.

Now House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his leadership team must decide whether to acquiesce to the Democrats, or to cut discretionary spending below the level provided for in this bill. Neither option is good from Boehner’s perspective. Appeasing Democrats will cost him support in his caucus, further weakening his standing in his party. But bowing to his own members by cutting spending even further would violate an agreement he struck with Democrats during the debt limit fight, and poison an already sour relationship between leaders of both parties.

GOP leadership is now debating whether to seek a new, less controversial offset, to scrap the idea of offsetting altogether, or to disentangle the disaster aid from the government funding bill altogether — to essentially admit that yoking the two together in the first place was an error. Democrats say it’s plausible there’s another, hypothetical offset they can live with — the only bright line they’re drawing now is that further cuts to the budget, below the level Republicans agreed to in July, are unacceptable.

“The quickest and easiest way to solve this problem is for them to send us a CR without the disaster aid and for them to pass our FEMA bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after the House vote failed. “There are other ways to do this. But again, our bottom line $1.04 trillion in the CR.”

Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day with DayBreaker. Sign up here, it takes just a few seconds.

Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Newswriters:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: