A bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate today appears to have prevented a federal government shutdown after the current fiscal year ends on September 30. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin both supported the deal.
Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution before September 30 because none of the 2012 federal budget bills have been adopted. That process has become routine over the last decade or two, but last week Federal Emergency Management Agency officials warned that they would run out of money for disaster aid before the end of the current fiscal year. House Republican leaders insisted that extra funding for FEMA in the continuing resolution be offset by cutting other domestic spending, an approach Democrats in the House and in the Senate rejected.
Today FEMA officials announced that the agency would not need a supplemental appropriation this week after all. That paved the way for a compromise:
Under a last-minute arrangement reached by the two parties, the Senate agreed in a 79-12 vote to approve a measure funding the government for six weeks, through Nov. 18.
Immediately after that tally, the Senate by voice vote agreed to a one-week stopgap measure that would fund the government through Oct. 4. […]
The Senate as a first step rejected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) government-funding proposal in a 54-35 vote.
Reid’s proposal would have funded the government through Nov. 18. It incuded $3.65 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but did not include a $1.5 billion offset included in legislation approved last week by the House.
Democrats opposed the GOP offset, arguing it would cost jobs. Reid said on the Senate floor Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — no Democratic “lap dog” — determined the cut would cost 45,000 jobs.
On the first vote, Harkin backed Reid’s proposal, while Grassley voted no (roll call). Both senators from Iowa voted yes on the deal that passed by an overwhelming margin (roll call). Grassley’s office released this statement after the vote:
“There’s widespread support in Congress to fund assistance for Americans who have been hit by natural disasters. We have an obligation as an insurer of last resort and need to keep that commitment. The only thing different this year is the effort to offset some of the cost, in order to establish more fiscal responsibility in Washington in the face of deficits as far as the eye can see and in response to the clear message sent last year by voters. The Senate majority leader drew a line in the sand that didn’t need to be drawn. There’s bipartisan and bicameral support for necessary funding to keep the government operating, including assistance for disaster recovery.”
Even though the House is in recess, House leaders could pass the bill funding the government through October 4 “by unanimous consent later this week in a pro forma session.” Representatives would then have a few days next week to pass the continuing resolution funding the government through November 18.
Last week, Tom Latham (IA-04) was among the majority of Republicans supporting the continuing resolutions drafted by House leaders. Steve King (IA-05) was among the conservative holdouts seeking deeper spending cuts.
Any comments about the federal budget are welcome in this thread.