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Shutdown Fears Rise as House Passes CR That Cannot Pass Senate

The House of Representatives passed their continuing resolution to fund the government for the first part of fiscal year 2012, and the odds of a government shutdown increased. Think that doesn’t logically follow? Think again.

You’ll recall that the House was stymied on the first go-round with this CR, which will fund the government until November 18, because the GOP attached offsets for disaster relief funding to the bill. The Democrats almost uniformly oppose offsets.  But instead of finding a solution that Democrats would sign onto in a time of divided government, John Boehner tacked right, yelled at his caucus and got enough of them to switch their votes on a virtually identical CR. The roll call was 219-203.

Why did 24 House Republicans shift their votes? “I’m chickenshit,” said Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

The only difference between what passed Thursday and the CR that failed on Tuesday is the inclusion of a new $100 million offset called “the Solyndra option,” a pullback of loan guarantees for clean energy technology. That’s $100 million in a temporary CR for a fiscal year budget of $1.043 trillion. Or, if you prefer, 1/10,000th of the total.

Harry Reid’s response is worth reading in full:

“The bill the House will vote on tonight is not an honest effort at compromise. It fails to provide the relief that our fellow Americans need as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of floods, wildfires and hurricanes, and it will be rejected by the Senate.

“I was optimistic that my House Republican colleagues would learn from their failure yesterday and move towards the middle. Instead, they moved even further towards the Tea Party. They insist on holding out on Americans who have suffered devastating losses. Americans are tired of this partisanship. They deserve to know that when disasters strike, we will be there to help them. The American people should not have to worry that the relief they need will get tied up in partisan gridlock.

“There is a clear solution. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to get disaster relief to the people who need it as quickly as possible. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could run out of money as soon as Monday. People who need help will not get it. We cannot allow that to happen. House Republicans should stop playing political games, and pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill without delay.

“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 released his statement before the House vote. It’s the functional equivalent of a veto threat, stating clearly that the bill about to be voted on in the House passed cannot pass the Senate. The House not only passed their bill anyway, they plan to adjourn for a one-week recess, with the deadline for funding the government on September 30. Reid noted at the end that his chamber would stay next week, but one chamber cannot complete the CR. The House, then, is trying to jam the Senate with an unacceptable bill.

Some may see this as like the debt limit fight. Actually, it more resembles the FAA Authorization fight. There, Senate Democrats stood on a principle. They did not want to see House proposed policy riders in a routine reauthorization extension. As a result, the FAA shut down for two weeks, but in the end, the policy rider was taken out, there have been two extensions since.  House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) felt sorry for himself for being mercilessly attacked, and he even proposed a bill for back pay for those affected by the shutdown.

This is similar in the sense that there’s a principle at stake. Disaster relief funding, Democrats insist, has never been offset. They refuse to set that precedent and make someone else pay every time there’s a hurricane or flood. There have been no talks, no negotiations. Boehner just lied to his caucus and said whatever they passed would pass the Senate. I don’t know that the White House has even commented on this yet.

I’d say the odds of a shutdown are around 75 percent.

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David Dayen

David Dayen