CRUNCH TIME: House GOP Jams Senate With Government Funding Bill, Partisan Budget Cuts For Disaster Aid

September 22, 2011 8:14 pm

House Republicans closed ranks just after midnight on Friday morning, and passed legislation to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month. The vote tally was 219-203.

But the bill received almost no Democratic support and faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate because Republicans have used the funding bill as a vehicle for disaster relief money, and insisted it be paid for by slashing funds for jobs programs Democrats support. Dems say the GOP legislation provides insufficient aid, and sets a dangerous precedent by requiring those funds to be offset with partisan budget cuts.

“The bill the House will vote on tonight is not an honest effort at compromise,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in a statement anticipating its passage. “It fails to provide the relief that our fellow Americans need as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of floods, wildfires and hurricanes, and it will be rejected by the Senate.”

A livid Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters Thursday night “We’re fed up with this…we’re sick of it, we’re tired of it.”Democrats are pushing Republicans to strip the disaster aid provisions from the bill entirely and pass a clean funding bill, and separate, emergency, Senate-passed legislation to provide relief to disaster-stricken regions across the country. At her weekly press conference Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed to a potential compromise.

“It would be my hope that there would be some split the difference, the Republicans would come out and say we’re not going to go as high as you wanted…and we will have no offset. That I think would be a reasonable place to be,” Pelosi said.

If, as expected, the legislation dies in the Senate, the parties will have to reach an alternative accommodation by September 30 when the current funds expire. Conservatives, seeking ever deeper cuts to the entire government, only supported the legislation reluctantly, and that suggests House Speaker John Boehner will have to strike a deal with Democrats that costs him significant support in his caucus. Both the House and Senate were scheduled to be in recess next week, though Reid has suggested he may keep the Senate in session.

House Republicans, on the other hand, plan to adjourn for that scheduled recess. That leaves Leader Reid few options, two of which are to cave — pass the House measure in order to avert a government shutdown — or to escalate — kill the House measure and demand they return to cut a deal.

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