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Democrats Win a Round, Stop House CR with Offset Disaster Relief

The House failed to pass a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government today, as Democrats mostly held together to reject the bill, which included a cut to a clean vehicles loan guarantee program to offset disaster relief funding.

The reason that the minority Democrats had leverage at all was because House conservatives refused to vote for the stopgap bill, which funds the government for two months in Fiscal Year 2012 at the level of spending agreed to in the debt limit deal. Those 48 conservatives wanted to break the deal and cut spending to a lower level than the agreed-upon amount. And John Boehner couldn’t whip them to his side.

That gave House Democrats the opportunity to stop the bill, on the grounds that the disaster relief funding for FEMA was far too low and that it would break long-standing precedent to offset emergency relief for a natural disaster. As you can see by the roll call, only six Democrats – Altmire, Holden, Kissell, McCarthy, Michaud and Welch – voted with the Republicans in favor of the bill. That wasn’t enough to pass it, and it failed 190-235.

Earlier in the day, House leaders whipped the vote in an attempt to get a united front against the bill. That largely succeeded; the only votes against were either members in severely hurricane-ravaged areas who wanted to see at least some disaster funding (like Welch of Vermont or Michaud of Maine), or the usual Blue Dog suspects.  [cont’d.]

It’s hard to say where we go from here. The House has until September 30 to pass a stopgap spending bill, but they’re scheduled to be out of town next week. They could try to pass the funding bill by dropping the offset, which is a $1.5 billion cut to loan guarantees for hybrid vehicle production. That would probably be enough to get the bill through. Harry Reid has vowed to replace the disaster relief portion of the bill in the Senate, but the Senate Republicans who stood with him to pass a standalone disaster relief bill are starting to waver.

The other option for Speaker Boehner is to appease conservatives in his party by cutting the stopgap bill below the agreed-upon level from the debt limit deal. But there doesn’t seem to be any chance that such a bill could pass the Senate.

Chuck Schumer offered his solution:

“The quickest and easiest way to solve this problem is for them to send us a CR without the disaster aid and for them to pass our FEMA bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after the House vote failed. “There are other ways to do this. But again, our bottom line $1.04 trillion in the CR.”

That does seem like the easiest way, but rarely does the easy thing get done in Congress. Democrats held strong today, and it’s really Boehner’s next move.

UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi is in sync with Schumer on this. From her statement:

“Instead of creating jobs, the number one priority of the American people, this Republican bill would have cost good-paying jobs; that is why Democrats rejected it tonight. House Democrats will work tirelessly to create jobs, and Democrats will always provide Americans struggling in the aftermath of a disaster what they need to rebuild.

“The rejection of this bill that destroys jobs was bipartisan. The House Republican leadership should now bring to the floor a clean CR and the bipartisan relief package already passed by the Senate.”

CommunityThe Bullpen

Democrats Win a Round, Stop House CR with Offset Disaster Relief

The House failed to pass a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government today, as Democrats mostly held together to reject the bill, which included a cut to a clean vehicles loan guarantee program to offset disaster relief funding.

The reason that the minority Democrats had leverage at all was because House conservatives refused to vote for the stopgap bill, which funds the government for two months in Fiscal Year 2012 at the level of spending agreed to in the debt limit deal. Those 48 conservatives wanted to break the deal and cut spending to a lower level than the agreed-upon amount. And John Boehner couldn’t whip them to his side.

That gave House Democrats the opportunity to stop the bill, on the grounds that the disaster relief funding for FEMA was far too low and that it would break long-standing precedent to offset emergency relief for a natural disaster. As you can see by the roll call, only six Democrats – Altmire, Holden, Kissell, McCarthy, Michaud and Welch – voted with the Republicans in favor of the bill. That wasn’t enough to pass it, and it failed 190-235.

Earlier in the day, House leaders whipped the vote in an attempt to get a united front against the bill. That largely succeeded; the only votes against were either members in severely hurricane-ravaged areas who wanted to see at least some disaster funding (like Welch of Vermont or Michaud of Maine), or the usual Blue Dog suspects.

It’s hard to say where we go from here. The House has until September 30 to pass a stopgap spending bill, but they’re scheduled to be out of town next week. They could try to pass the funding bill by dropping the offset, which is a $1.5 billion cut to loan guarantees for hybrid vehicle production. That would probably be enough to get the bill through. Harry Reid has vowed to replace the disaster relief portion of the bill in the Senate, but the Senate Republicans who stood with him to pass a standalone disaster relief bill are starting to waver.

The other option for Speaker Boehner is to appease conservatives in his party by cutting the stopgap bill below the agreed-upon level from the debt limit deal. But there doesn’t seem to be any chance that such a bill could pass the Senate.

Chuck Schumer offered his solution:

“The quickest and easiest way to solve this problem is for them to send us a CR without the disaster aid and for them to pass our FEMA bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after the House vote failed. “There are other ways to do this. But again, our bottom line $1.04 trillion in the CR.”

That does seem like the easiest way, but rarely does the easy thing get done in Congress. Democrats held strong today, and it’s really Boehner’s next move.

UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi is in sync with Schumer on this. From her statement:

“Instead of creating jobs, the number one priority of the American people, this Republican bill would have cost good-paying jobs; that is why Democrats rejected it tonight. House Democrats will work tirelessly to create jobs, and Democrats will always provide Americans struggling in the aftermath of a disaster what they need to rebuild.

“The rejection of this bill that destroys jobs was bipartisan. The House Republican leadership should now bring to the floor a clean CR and the bipartisan relief package already passed by the Senate.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen