House Approves Stop-Gap Budget Opposed by Senate, Government Shutdown Possible

Early this morning, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Republican-authored short-term funding measure designed to keep the government running through November 18, which Democrats in the Senate immediately vowed they would reject. On Wednesday, the House voted down an almost identical measure. The current budget is set to expire at the end of the month, leaving lawmakers with just days to pass a new budget in order to avoid a government shutdown.

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In an after-midnight roll call, House Republican leaders urged their constituents to support a stop-gap bill to keep federal agencies funded through November 18, which was passed despite Democratic opposition to a provision that would offset increased disaster relief funding with spending cuts to a program that makes loans to car companies to encourage the production of energy-efficient vehicles.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running low on disaster relief funds, and could run out as soon as Monday. FEMA has already put longer-term building projects on hold while focusing its few remaining resources on providing food and water to disaster victims and removing debris. Without a resolution, not only would FEMA be unable to continue in efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters, but the government would be forced to shut down on October 1.

After losing Wednesday’s vote, House Speaker John A. Boehner urged his fell Republicans to approve the bill, otherwise he said he would have to capitulate to Democrats’ demands and remove the offsetting cut. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Thursday that the measure would not pass his chamber. “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,” Reid said of the bill.

Republicans rejected the measure on Wednesday because they though its spending levels were far above those voted for in the spring when the 2012 budget was approved, according to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Boehner knew that many of his peers objected to the bill, but pushed the vote anyway in hopes that it would get enough Democratic votes to pass. Boehner did not learn until Wednesday that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosy and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer were telling their caucus to oppose the measure. In the end, only six Democrats voted for the measure, which failed, 195 to 230.

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The proposed budget would pair $3.65 billion in funding for disaster relief with a $1.5 billion spending cut to the Advanced Technology Vehicle program, which offers loans to car companies to encourage them to develop energy-efficient cars. Democrats opposing the measure have argued that the loan program has generated tens of thousands of jobs.

The Senate plans to vote on the measure Friday.