The threat of a Oct. 1 government shutdown is closer after the Senate rejected a short-term funding bill approved by the House earlier on Friday. The bill would keep government funded for six weeks beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
The Senate vote was 59-36.
The House’s bill passed a little after midnight on Friday by a near party-line 219-203 vote. It includes $3.7 billion toward disaster funding, a point of contention for House Democrats who said the funding came at the expense of an environmental loan program.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had said the House bill would be dead on arrival. Senate Democrats said the House measure lacked enough disaster assistance. The Senate provided $6.9 billion in disaster aid and no cuts to help pay for it as part of an appropriations bill passed last week.
“This great piece of legislation that was sent to us by the House received 36 votes here. It was tabled on bipartisan basis,” Reid said during debate on the Senate floor. “We recognize that even though we passed a bill here with bipartisan support that had $6.9 billion, which we believe is an appropriate figure, in an effort to compromise in this CR, we have the number that the House thinks is a better number. That is what is before us.”
The deadline to pass a budget deal was even more pressing because the House and Senate both planned to take next week off. Instead, the Senate decided to reconvene Monday to debate and vote on its version of the continuing resolution.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there was no reason to delay disaster relief funding until Monday.
“I think it’s important for us to try to resolve this issue sooner than later,” McConnell said. “If we don’t have a vote until Monday, that leaves 24 hours or so before the Jewish holiday begins and then several days before the end of the fiscal year. It strikes me that we’d be better off to have this vote now and enter into the discussions that will probably now be delayed until sometime Monday night to see how we can resolve this impasse between the House and Senate.”
Despite a threat of a stalemate, Bill Frenzel, a global scholar of economics at the Brookings Institution, said Congress will likely find a way to avert a shutdown.
In an interview with the Federal Drive, Frenzel said the House and the Senate “will thrash it out and as usual come to some kind of an agreement.”
Along with working on the CR, lawmakers continue to work on the 2012 spending bills.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved three more bills this week, including the ones for Labor-HHS-Education, Transportation-HUD and State and Foreign Operations. All three of these now move to the full Senate for a vote.
The House Appropriations Committee didn’t hold a markup or vote this week and continue to work on the same three bills the Senate Committee just approved.
The full Senate and House have passed only one bill, the Military Construction-VA legislation. It still must go through a conference committee to work out the differences. The other 10 bills are far from complete and still have several hurdles before they are even close to being done.