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Disaster Aid Funds Fuel Fight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is blaming Republicans for a looming showdown over disaster aid funding. Reid said today that he couldn’t be sure that Congress would act in time to prevent a government shutdown.

Updated: 6:54 p.m.

Senate Democrats and House Republicans clashed today over who would be to blame if the two sides can’t agree on disaster aid funding in a stopgap spending bill and the government shuts down Oct. 1.

Even as they tried to shift the responsibility to each other, leaders in both chambers were struggling to find the votes for their respective proposals.

House passage of the continuing resolution is not guaranteed. More than 50 House Republicans are expected to defect from their leadership and vote against it, charging that the $1.043 trillion total is higher than what was set out under the GOP budget approved earlier this year. They are taking that position despite pleas from House leaders, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), to accept the higher spending caps agreed to in last month’s debt ceiling bill.

With those defections and potentially more from Democrats who are holding out for more disaster money, it’s now unclear whether House Republicans have the 218 votes they need for Wednesday's floor vote or to pass a CR with additional emergency spending included.

If it does pass, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will face troubles of his own. Reid said today  he could not say for certain that Congress could act in time to prevent a government shutdown before the Sept. 30 deadline to renew funding for federal programs and agencies.

“I am not that sure,” Reid said during his weekly press conference. He blamed House Republicans looking to appease their tea party base.

“We are not going to back down,” he said of the Senate Democrats’ push for $7 billion in disaster aid that is not offset.

Reid also threatened to keep the Senate in session during next week’s scheduled recess to resolve the issue.

But Cantor told reporters a shutdown would be the fault of Senate Democrats, who he said were looking to score political points.

“It’ll be on Leader Reid’s shoulders because he’s the one playing politics with it,” Cantor said today. “There’s nothing else but politics going on with that move if that’s what happens.”

At issue is the disaster funding provision in the continuing resolution that the GOP-led House is expected to send to the Senate on Wednesday. The CR would fund the federal government through Nov. 18.

The House CR includes $3.6 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. The bill also offsets about $1 billion of that spending by cutting the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which helps the auto industry retool or expand factories to produce fuel-efficient technology.

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