The Senate voted on a government-funding bill on Monday that would keep the government running through Nov. 18.
Had the Senate not acted, government funding would have run out on Friday and the government would have shut down; however, Senate leaders reached an agreement late Monday to avoid such a scenario. By a 79-12 vote, the upper chamber voted to fund the government through Nov. 18 while also approving by a voice vote a one-week stopgap measure that will keep the government funded through Oct. 4. The one-week bill was necessary because current government funding runs out on Sept. 30 and the House of Representatives is on recess.
“We’ve basically resolved this issue,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
The seven-week funding bill would set total spending at $1.043 trillion and provide a $2.65 billion down payment for FEMA.
Now, to officially avoid a government shutdown the House would have to approve the one-week stopgap measure by unanimous consent this week in a pro forma session. Should that occur – and it is not guaranteed it will with an emboldened conservative majority in the House that have been demanding offsets on everything – it would give time for the lower chamber to vote on the longer-term funding measure when they return from recess next week.
The last-minute negotiating would not have been necessary if the two chambers could have agreed on disaster aid funding, but an impasse on that issue once again caused the threat of another government shutdown to come down to the wire. Republicans want funding for disaster aid to be offset, with the money coming from an energy loan program. Democrats, on the other hand, do not think the money should be offset or at least not from the loan program and have said doing so would risk more job losses.
The weeks-long partisan bickering over funding for FEMA ended after the disaster relief agency announced on Monday it would have enough money to last through the end of the week, which eliminated the need for emergency money – something that was thought to be needed before a FEMA official said the agency got back about $40 million last weekend when the money was returned to the agency from completed projects. That announcement paved the way for Congress to focus on fiscal year 2012 spending because the current FEMA funding would run into the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
“I think it is very clear that this is the right way to go,” Reid said on the Senate floor about the funding bill. “It shows us we don’t need to focus on 2011 funding. … This compromise should satisfy Republicans because it includes the 2012 FEMA funding, and it should be a win for Democrats because it does not include offsets.”
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