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Showdown Is a No-Win Situation in Third Budget Battle of the Year

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
From left: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders gathered before a Friday news conference to discuss the possibility of a government shutdown.

Indeed, Boehner initially suffered a defeat on the House floor when 48 tea-party-inspired Republicans joined all but six Democrats in opposing the CR last week. GOP opposition came from a belief that the spending levels the House and Senate agreed to in August were too high. Only after adding another small offset that targeted a controversial renewable energy loan program did some of those Republicans agree to support the CR. Boehner convinced them by arguing he would have to begin negotiating with Democrats if the Republicans didn’t go along with the tweak.

House Democratic leaders have said they would encourage their Members to vote for the Senate’s proposed compromise measure.

But in the Senate, the bill will need seven Republicans to vote with all 53 Democrats to win the 60 votes needed to clear any procedural hurdles. That will be a tall order with House and Senate Republican leaders working together to push for passage of the House CR.

“I had a couple of Republicans come to me today from states that are in disaster areas and said if it’s the only bill in town and FEMA is going to run out of money, I have to vote for it,” Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who heads Senate Democrats’ communications and policy operation, said Friday.

A week and a half ago, 10 Republicans voted for a Senate bill that would provide nearly double the disaster funding that the House has proposed, without offsets. But several of those GOP Senators have since been wavering in their support.

If the latest Senate measure fails to win 60 votes, Senate Democrats hope to work out something with House Republicans before the end of the week.

“We believe the Republicans will not let the government shut down,” Schumer said. “We believe they will come and negotiate.”

Even if Senate Democrats manage to pass their bill, chances of a compromise getting to the president are complicated by the fact that House GOP leaders have already sent their Members home and have indicated that they don’t expect to call them back to vote again on a CR.

“We have the money in the bill. It’s there in a responsible manner,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Friday. “Let’s get the money to the people that need it. ... The bill is there in front of [Reid]. The Senate should take the bill up and get the people the disaster relief they need.”

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