Senate Democrats Table Partisan House CR; Government Shutdown Looms
The Senate quickly moved to table the continuing resolution to fund the government, combined with a disaster relief funding measure that includes offsets, which the House just passed last night. There is now no legislative vehicle to fund the government, with one week until the deadline. And the House is still planning to leave town.
Specifically, the Senate moved to table the CR, which David Waldman explains.
The House’s play here was to try to hand their version of the continuing appropriations bill (to keep the government funded and running past the end of the fiscal year on September 30th) to the Senate and then skip town for a one week recess, leaving the Senate with the choice of either accepting their version of the bill, or amending/rejecting it without the House in town to react, which would leave us without a funding bill in place and trigger a government shutdown.
Instead, the Senate moved immediately to table (effectively, to kill) the House-passed version, meaning that the House will still be in session when the news comes back that there’s no longer a live appropriations vehicle out there to avert the shutdown. Some of the votes to table the bill came from of the usual hard right-leaning suspects, which leads me to believe they’re looking to kill two birds with one stone here: 1) to help speed the creation of a crisis, and; 2) to be able to claim they opposed the bill because it didn’t cut enough, as some hardliner Republicans in the House continued to say last night.
Take a look at the roll call. The tabling passed by a large margin, 59-36. And only Ben Nelson joined most Republicans on the losing side, against the tabling. Seven Republicans – mostly far-right tea partiers who don’t like the bill on principle – voted to table.
Suzy Khimm writes that the squabble concerns a very small amount of money, but that misses the point entirely. The fight is over a principle. The principle is that when we have a natural disaster, we don’t make loan guarantees for clean energy or LIHEAP funding or Head Start or any other priority pay the price. Offsetting disaster relief is simply without precedent. If Democrats give in on this, every subsequent disaster relief plan will be offset, and on more and more cherished priorities. That’s clearly unacceptable to Democrats, who voted against this en masse, despite the fact that it raises the potential for a shutdown.
It’s unclear where things go from here. Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke briefly today, but made no progress, as evidenced by the tabling motion. Republicans want their bill passed, and Democrats want a clean bill along with passage of their bipartisan disaster relief plan without offsets. Reid even budged on the level of funding for disaster relief, but not the offsets:
At a press conference just before the vote to table began in the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) held a Capitol press conference to dig in their heels. Boehner said he’d spoken to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Friday morning and that the two had made no progress.
That’s despite the fact that Reid has offered to reduce the overall disaster aid funding from the Senate-passed $6.9 billion to $3.7 billion.
Senate leaders are holding a press conference at this hour on the way forward, but no news has yet come of it. We know there will be a vote Monday in the Senate just to get FEMA funding through September 30, and possibly to fund the government for a week or two. There may also be weekend sessions in the House to find an agreement. Negotiations otherwise continue.