The Senate bill includes dollars for disaster relief without an offsetting spending cut elsewhere that the House GOP demands.
It is not clear how the dispute will be resolved. A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that leaders have been in touch, but other congressional aides said there was no progress toward a compromise over the weekend.
And members of Congress who appeared on Sunday talk shows gave little sign that they would move quickly from their parties’ positions on disaster relief.
“The Senate is saying . . . why should we, in effect, rebuild schools in Iraq on the credit card but expect that rebuilding schools in Joplin, Missouri, at this moment in time have to be paid for in a way that has never been in any of the previous disaster assistance that we’ve put out before?” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He blamed the dispute on tea-party-affiliated Republicans in the House who demanded the spending cut.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on the same program: “Everybody knows we’re going to pay for every single penny of disaster aid that the president declares and that FEMA certifies. And the House sent over a bill that does that and the Senate should have approved it.”
He blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for manufacturing a crisis over funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But Warner and Alexander, who have been pushing for more bipartisan cooperation over the far more difficult and consequential task of deficit reduction, appeared weary over the mess. Warner called it “embarrassing.”
“I don’t like this business of sitting around blaming each other over such small potatoes,” Alexander said.
But the small potatoes are part of a much larger and ongoing fight about debt and deficit spending in Washington.
Last week, Boehner lost a vote on how to fund the federal government, sending Washington bumbling into its third shutdown showdown in the past six months.
His problem was the same as in the previous spending battles — roughly 50 of the most conservative Republicans who mutinied in the name of deeper spending cuts.
But Boehner may have strengthened his hand in the fight by persuading his fractious team to rally around his leadership.
The fact that a resolution now hinges on action in the Senate is a sign that Boehner is in stronger position politically than he was a week ago — that he can now sometimes harness the power of his majority, despite nine months of often chaotic rule.
Rather than working with Democrats, he worked on Republicans, persuading enough to switch their votes. The House passed an almost identical version of the spending bill Thursday and forced the issue to the Senate.