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Stopgap bill to keep government running fails in House; shutdown looms

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The potential of a government shutdown at the end of the month loomed slightly larger Wednesday after a critical measure to fund the government through mid-November was defeated in the House Wednesday evening.

GOP leaders were unable to overcome objections from Democrats who believed the bill did not do enough for disaster victims and from conservative Republicans who wanted to use the bill to cut spending more deeply.

The vote was a significant defeat for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders, who had been confident they could muscle the bill over to the Senate despite protests from both sides of the aisle.

House leaders must now rewrite to appease either Democrats or the right wing of their own party and pass a bill for consideration by the Senate before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, or the government will shut down.

The measure failed 230 to 195. Only six Democrats voted for it, while 182 Democrats voted against. More significantly, 48 Republicans opposed it.

At issue for conservative Republicans was their leadership’s decision to set spending in the bill at a rate of $1.043 trillion for the year, the spending level agreed to in the bitterly contested August deal to raise the debt ceiling.

But many Republicans considered the figure a cap and believed their party should push for deeper cuts at every turn.

“There has to be that moment where we say ‘no,’ this is not what is necessary, and we’re going to have to work for something better,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who opposed the bill.

Democrats, meanwhile, opposed the bill because it offset $1.5 billion of $3.65 billion in disaster relief funding with a cut to a program that loans money to car companies to encourage the production of energy-efficient cars.

They believed the program created jobs and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, strained by repeated natural disasters, needs more funding. Ten Republicans had joined Democrats in the Senate last week to approve a separate bill to spend $6.9 billion on disaster relief efforts over the course of the year.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), who represents storm-hit Paterson, N.J., noted that 5,000 people had been evacuated from his district and argued that House Republicans’ call for the disaster funding to be offset was unprecedented.

“We have never done this in an emergency. . . . We’re talking about an emergency in our own country here, in our own neighborhoods. We need both sides to come together here,” he said.

Senate Democrats had been threatening to amend the continuing resolution with the additional funding if the measure had passed the House.

Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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