Early this morning, the House passed (219Y-203N) a FY2012 Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the government operating until November 18, 2011. Passage came a little more than a day after the House had rejected essentially the same bill.
On Wednesday, the House failed to approve the CR as 48 Republicans voted against the bill and only six Democrats supported it. After that vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) met with Republican members in an effort to persuade enough Republican members to change their vote and ensure passage. Otherwise, he reportedly told the group, he would have to strike a deal with Democrats to gain their support by shedding the $1.5 billion offset to disaster assistance funding included in the bill. His efforts appear to have succeeded as 24 Republicans switched their votes when the bill came up for a vote again.
The House-passed CR would fund government agencies between October 1 and November 18 at a rate of $1.043 trillion, the amount for FY2012 set in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The bill also includes $3.65 billion in disaster relief assistance for Hurricane Irene, recent wildfires, floods and tornadoes, the Mid-Atlantic earthquake, and other natural disasters.
The House-passed bill includes offsets of $1.6 billion to disaster funding. In addition to a $1.5 billion cut from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program included in the original House bill, the CR adds a $100 million rescission from another Department of Energy program involving loan guarantees to the energy firm Solyndra. Solyndra has recently has declared bankruptcy and has come under federal investigation. Almost all House Democrats opposed any offsets to disaster funding.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) urged the Senate to act quickly on the House bill. But, Senate Democrats are unwilling to accept both the House bill’s low level of disaster funding and any offsets to that funding.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed a bill that provides $6.95 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance, without offsets. In a statement after the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) pressed for the higher disaster funding level and said the Senate will reject the House bill.
So, with both the House and Senate wanting to go on recess next week and FY2012 only eight days away, congressional leaders of both parties will have to resolve their differences quickly if they want to avoid what almost everyone in Congress professes not to want: a government shutdown.