Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today called on House Republicans to pass funding legislation that would keep the federal government open through Nov. 18 but does not offset disaster relief spending.
Congress has through Friday to pass a stopgap bill or the government will begin to shut down, and the Senate is set to vote this evening on a measure to fund the government and provide disaster aid. The bill is a compromise proposed by Senate Democrats, who argue that Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funding should be provided without offsets.
“Democrats have made a good faith effort to compromise,” Reid said.
The measure is identical to a continuing resolution approved by House Republicans last week except it does not include a provision that would offset about $1.1 billion of the $3.6 billion in FEMA funding provided in the bill.
Democrats also oppose the green technology programs that House Republicans want to use as an offset, arguing the programs create jobs and should be kept whole.
“Our compromise includes a clean continuing resolution,” Reid said. “This should not be a controversial vote [for Republicans]. They have already voted for it.”
Senate Democrats will need at least seven Republicans to vote with them, but it is unclear whether they can get those votes with most Senate Republicans preferring the original House CR.
Republicans have argued that it’s important to offset emergency spending because the nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path and needs to do everything possible to rein in the deficit.
Also, House Republican leaders have adjourned for the week in an effort to force Senate Democrats to pass their bill or take the blame for shutting down the government.
Reid criticized House Members for leaving town with the issue unresolved.
“Its real hard to compromise with people who aren’t here,” Reid said.
However, the staffs of House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders have been in contact, including over the weekend.
Democrats got more room to try to force House Republicans to the negotiating table today, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed it may be able to make it through the end of the fiscal year Friday without needing an additional infusion of cash from Congress.
Last week, Members estimated FEMA would run out of funds Tuesday.
The FEMA disaster relief fund has a total of $114 million as of today, and the agency is spending funds at a rate of at least $30 million a day, “but they might be able to shake the cushions and come up extra to get them through the week,” a Senate aide said.
Senate Democrats are now hoping that Republicans would be willing to pass the CR without offsets because FEMA would not need any funding before the fiscal year ends. The House’s $1.1 billion in offsets were targeted to paying for $1 billion that the agency was expected to need in fiscal 2011.
But it is unclear whether House Republicans will go along.
Republicans remain angry at Democrats, particularly those in the House, for abruptly backing out of their deal to pass the CR last week in order to force divisions within the House GOP Conference to the surface. Although Democrats had hoped Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would negotiate a new bipartisan deal on the CR after he was unable to pass the bill without their support, he instead was able to use Wednesday’s defeat of the CR to motivate a handful of conservatives to switch votes.
For now, House Republicans are continuing to hold the line.
“If Reid doesn’t pass the House bill tonight, he will be responsible for a government shutdown, period,” one GOP aide said today.
Still, aides on both sides of the aisle predicted that if Reid is able to pass a truly clean CR that meets the requirements of the deal that he cut with Republicans in August, the House could end up passing that bill and punting on a supplemental FEMA fight until later this year.