In an after-midnight roll call, House Republican leaders persuaded conservatives early Friday morning to support a stop-gap measure nearly identical to one they had rejected just 30 hours earlier. By a narrow margin, 213 Republicans supported the plan, along with six Democrats; 179 Democrats opposed it, joined by 24 Republicans.
The bill, which will keep federal agencies funded through Nov. 18, passed over staunch objections from House Democrats, who opposed a provision that would pair increased funding for disaster relief with a spending cut to a program that makes loans to car companies to encourage energy efficient car production.
But House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) victory is likely to be short-lived. Reid said late Thursday that the measure could not pass his chamber, with a vote expected sometime Friday. A Senate defeat would leave Congress at a new standoff.
“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 House bill.
Without a resolution, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund will run out of money early next week and the rest of the government would be forced to shutdown Oct. 1.
House leaders contend that the Senate would be responsible for blocking desperately needed disaster dollars from flowing to FEMA if they reject their bill.
“You saw the House act,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as he left the Capitol early Friday morning. “We are intending that the money gets to FEMA and to disaster victims as they need it.”
“I think Harry Reid’s political ploy is not going to work,” Cantor continued, adding that blame for FEMA funding drying up if the Senate rejects the bill would fall on Senate Democrats. “I guess Harry Reid will have to bear the burden of denying disaster victims the money they need.”
Friday’s House vote marked a reversal of fortunes for Boehner, who after losing the initial Wednesday vote on the House spending resolution found himself roaming the contours of a familiar dilemma — capitulate to fiscal hawks in his own party who want to spend less, or compromise with Democrats who want to spend more.
Instead, Boehner found another route: He huddled all day and night Thursday with his rank-and-file, warning them he would give them one more chance to approve the bill or he would be forced to agree to drop the offsetting cut, as Democrats had demanded.
In addition, after a 90-minute meeting with the House GOP Conference on Thursday afternoon, the leadership agreed to an additional, largely symbolic cut by striking $100 million from a loan program that funded the bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. That company, which received the loan guarantees through the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus legislation, has become a favorite target for Republicans in their critique of the White House’s handling of the economy.