After a long day of debate and fierce Republican whipping efforts, the House passed a government funding measure that faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-led Senate.
The bill passed 219-203, largely along party lines, with six Democrats mostly from disaster-stricken states joining Republicans in favor. Twenty-four mostly conservative Republicans voted against the bill, largely contending that the price tag was higher than the GOP budget passed by the House earlier this year.
After failing to pass an earlier version of the measure Wednesday, GOP leaders tweaked the measure to include an additional $100 million in cuts that would come from a Department of Energy program that provided loan guarantees to Solyndra LLC, a bankrupt Fremont, Calif., solar-panel maker. That reduction is on top of the roughly $1 billion cut from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program to pay for part of the emergency spending.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement hours before the House vote threatening to cancel next week’s recess to work out a deal acceptable to Democrats.
“The Senate is ready to stay in Washington next week to do the work the American people expect us to do, and I hope the House Republican leadership will do the same,” Reid said.
Republicans gave no indication that they were ready to budge. In a statement, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said: “I urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill so we can send it to the president and keep our focus on the American people’s top priority: jobs. This common-sense measure cuts spending for the second year in a row and protects our struggling economy from the uncertainty of a government shutdown.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) echoed the Speaker. “I think Harry Reid’s political ploy is not going to work,” the Virginia Republican said.
Asked whether he thought the House would be in session next week, Cantor said, “No, the plan is for us to finish up our work” on Friday.
He added that if the Senate does not pass the House CR, “I guess Harry Reid will have to bear the burden of denying disaster victims the money they need.”
The House GOP bill provides $3.6 billion for disaster aid, of which about $1.1 billion would be offset. The Senate passed its own disaster relief measure last week, with the help of 10 Republicans, that would provide FEMA with nearly $7 billion to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and other disasters.
Congress has through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, to act, or parts of the government could shut down. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in recess next week, but without an agreement on what to include in the CR, the chambers might need to work into next week.