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Deal or No Deal: Parties Disagree How Shutdown Was Averted

Adding to the drama, both Senate Democrats and Republicans were unenthusiastic warriors. They had been scheduled to be on recess and working in their states this week, but they were engaged in the unexpected government shutdown fight, which also likely guided leaders’ decisions to accelerate a deal, aides said.

Republican aides said that the final compromise was the most obvious course of action after the White House declared that FEMA did not need the extra $1 billion in funding for the remainder of fiscal 2011, which ends this Friday.

The White House Office of Management and Budget sent a letter dated Monday, but publicly released today, to Reid assuring him that FEMA would remain solvent through this week.

House Republicans contend that that was what ultimately allowed Senate Democrats to push their proposal. Without the need for FEMA funding in fiscal 2011, there would be no need for offsets, which was at the heart of the dispute.

“The White House gave them an escape hatch,” a House GOP aide said.

House Republicans believe that Senate Democrats backed themselves into a corner after seeing an opportunity to fight the offset after House leaders lost the initial vote on their chamber’s CR.

“They got greedy and tried to play politics with disaster aid,” a House Republican aide said. “They thought they had us over a barrel.”

The House initially failed to pass the measure last Wednesday. House Democrats whipped against the bill and kept all but six of their Members from voting for the CR, a move that House GOP leaders said reneged on an earlier promise to deliver votes for the measure.

House leaders then held another vote Thursday after twisting arms to get the votes to pass the measure. After that, House leaders sent their Members home for a scheduled recess but also pressured Senate Democrats to accept their bill.

The shutdown fight was the third this year, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) speculated that Senate Republicans are growing tired of their House counterparts.

“I think there is a weariness — and they may not admit it — but I sense there is a weariness among Senate Republicans about the operations of that House,” the Louisiana Democrat said. “And the public is growing tired of the tea party agenda that continues to put us on the brink of shutdown.”

House Republican leaders are expected to try to pass a short-term CR that expires Oct. 4 by unanimous consent this Thursday. The short-term CR, which was passed by the Senate on a voice vote Monday night, is designed to give House leaders a few days to vote on the Nov. 18 CR deal. If the short-term CR is passed, the House must then act by Tuesday to pass the Nov. 18 CR.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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