Cram It! Senate Dems And Republicans Reject Holding Disaster Aid Hostage


By a bipartisan vote of 59-36 Friday, Senate Democrats and several Republicans tabled (read: effectively killed) House-passed legislation to fund the federal government beyond September 30. The development escalates a new round of brinkmanship with disaster aid for FEMA and a government shutdown at stake.

Democrats are enraged by a provision of the GOP legislation, which holds disaster aid hostage to partisan budget cuts.

They’re also unhappy with the amount of disaster relief money House Republicans included in their bill. Last week, the Senate passed legislation on a bipartisan basis that provided FEMA about twice as much disaster aid as the House bill, without requiring any offsets.So with FEMA set to run out of funds as early as Monday, and the government set to shutdown in one week, we’re at yet another impasse.

At a press conference just before the vote to table began in the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) held a Capitol press conference to dig in their heels. Boehner said he’d spoken to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Friday morning and that the two had made no progress.

That’s despite the fact that Reid has offered to reduce the overall disaster aid funding from the Senate-passed $6.9 billion to $3.7 billion.

“With FEMA expected to run out of disaster funding as soon as Monday, the only path to getting assistance into the hands of American families immediately is for the Senate to approve the House bill,” Boehner said in an official statement Friday morning.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The House legislation received only 36 votes in the Senate. As noted above, the Senate passed a stand-alone disaster bill last week, which the House could take up and pass instead of scattering to the four winds.

On the Senate floor just after the House bill was tabled, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reluctantly agreed to hold a Monday vote on compromise legislation to top-off FEMA’s disaster account, and keep the federal government funded. McConnell urged Reid to hold a Friday vote, but Reid asked for delay, with the expectation that cooler heads will prevail over the weekend. McConnell, Reid, Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will negotiate through the weekend to break the gridlock.