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2chambers
Posted at 12:44 PM ET, 09/20/2011

Shutdown threat looms again as parties spar over disaster relief


(Cliff Owen - AP)
House Democrats may not support a stopgap government funding measure if it includes a GOP-backed spending cut to offset additional disaster relief monies, a House leader said Tuesday. Such a move would raise the specter of a government shutdown less than two months after a debt-ceiling battle had triggered those same fears.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Republican leaders are “making a mistake” by proposed a funding resolution that includes a $1.5 billion cut to a program that promotes the building of energy-efficient cars. Republicans want the cut to help offset additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of a series of recent disasters.

That offset, Hoyer argued, puts at risk 30,000 to 50,000 jobs “that would be created, we believe, by that investment” -- and as a result, Democrats may not back the funding measure when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday.

“My presumption is they will offer a (funding resolution) which has that offset in it, and I think Democrats will be loathe to support that effort because we think it’s counterproductive,” Hoyer said. “The (resolution) needs to be passed, but we’ll see what the Senate does.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier Tuesday that once the House passes a funding measure, the Senate will move to amend it to include billions of dollars in additional disaster relief aid.

That means that to avoid a government shutdown, the House would have to pass the amended measure before both chambers recess on Friday for a week-long district work period. House leaders could also move to force the Senate to approve the House-passed measure unamended. The resolution keeping the government running is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Complicating matters in the House is that more than 50 Republicans led by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling for deeper cuts in the government funding resolution. Republicans will likely have to rely on the support of several dozen Democrats in order to pass Wednesday’s bill.

Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said Tuesday that he has not yet spoken with House Republican leaders about whether they anticipate needing Democratic support.

“Maybe they have the support on their side of the aisle to pass” a funding resolution, Hoyer said. “Clearly, [a bill] needs to pass, but again, it doesn’t need to pass with this in it.”

Last week, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said that despite his concerns about the offset, he would support the funding resolution.

“The last thing we need, with a fragile economy and regions reeling from natural disasters, is another partisan political fight in Congress,” Dicks said in a statement.

Asked Tuesday about Dicks’s remarks, Hoyer contended that his fellow Democrat said “essentially what I have said: You need to pass a ]bill]; you need to keep the government funded; you don’t need to do it in this manner.”

“We have not yet made a decision on what we’ll do on this,” Hoyer added. “I know Mr. Dicks’s comments, and I agree with his comments, but ... we agree with the Senate, and we may vote that way.”

By  |  12:44 PM ET, 09/20/2011

 
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