The sticking point could be on how the relief is paid for if Republicans still press to have the disaster funds offset. Cantor, whose home state was hit by both Irene and a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August, has been advocating that the relief should be paid for by cutting other programs.
Senate Democrats could increase pressure on the House to pass separate emergency supplemental legislation because they believe a fight on the floor over a clean disaster relief bill is more politically salient than one on a broader appropriations bill.
An emergency bill could come to the Senate floor in the second week of the work period, aides suggested. But the timing of any legislation is dependent on whether Democratic leaders press forward with a jobs bill to build on President Barack Obama’s speech on jobs this week.
Once any dispute over disaster money is resolved, that still leaves lawmakers with the fight over just how to achieve the mandatory $7 billion in cuts in next year’s appropriations. The debt limit agreement creates what aides call a “firewall” between security and nonsecurity spending, which helps protect the traditionally Republican interests of defense and the Democratic interests of domestic spending by ensuring that cuts are not lopsided one way or another. But determining the specific cuts is probably the most significant obstacle facing lawmakers in trying to get a bill to the president’s desk.
The other major problem is time. The House has only 11 workdays until the end of the fiscal year. Neither the House nor the Senate is slated to be in session the week before the Sept. 30 deadline to keep the government funded into the next fiscal year.
“We’re so late — FY  begins at the end of next month, so it probably will be difficult to have a normal appropriations process. They’ll have to be clumped together,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a news conference after the debt ceiling deal passed.
Just how long that continuing resolution might stretch is unclear. A Senate Democratic leadership aide said leaders were looking for the “most permanent” solution possible for the upcoming fiscal year, even as the Appropriations Committee forges ahead on marking up individual bills.
A Senate Appropriations Committee aide added, “The committee intends to move as many bills as possible in the next few weeks in order to make them available for consideration by the full Senate. ... It will not be possible to enact all 12 annual appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. As a result, a short-term continuing resolution will likely be needed.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.