WASHINGTON – The Senate on Friday rejected a House-passed measure to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, signaling that Senate Democrats are ready for an eleventh-hour fight with House Republicans over billions of dollars in disaster aid in the bill.
By a vote of 59 to 36, the Senate tabled the $1.043 trillion resolution aimed at funding the government from Oct. 1 through Nov. 18. Congress has to send some kind of temporary funding measure to the president’s desk by Sept. 30 or the government will shut down.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been vowing to block the House bill, which passed at 1 a.m. on Friday, because of its language on disaster relief. House Republicans want to cut $1.5 billion from an Energy Department clean car fund to pay for disaster aid. But the Senate has already passed its own $6.9 billion disaster relief package, without offsets, and Democrats have balked at the idea of having to match emergency aid with cuts — especially cuts from a program they like.
Immediately after the vote to block the funding bill, Reid set up a new vote for Monday at 5:30 p.m. to begin debate on a modified version of the House bill that Senate Democrats could support. It would make one key change: No offsets for disaster aid.
Just before the vote, House Republican leaders railed against Senate Democrats for planning to reject their bill, saying it would be Democrats fault if the Federal Emergency Management Administration runs out of money, which could happen as soon as Monday.
“This bill was put together in a bipartisan way with House and Senate leaders, and just because someone decided to change their mind and walk away from an understanding about how we’re going to proceed certainly does not make it right,” Boehner said.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) repeatedly accused Senate Democrats of playing political games at the expense of disaster victims, even though the Senate has already passed a much larger $6.9 billion disaster package.
But the House bill faces bipartisan opposition in the Senate. Several Senate Republicans unhappy with the disaster aid language voted with Democrats to table the House measure: Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).
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