Stage set for another possible shutdown as Senate rejects House bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with reporters as he walks across the Capitol on his way to the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as national debt crisis negotiations continue on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sunday, July 31, 2011.
AP Photo/Harry Hamburg
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

Updated: 5:02p.m. ET

Setting the stage for another congressional budget battle - and the possibility of a government shutdown - the Senate on Friday voted to block a Republican stopgap budget bill that would have kept the government funded through November 18.

The $1.043 trillion bill, which passed in the House late last night, failed in the Senate by a vote of 59-36.

The bill includes $3.65 billion in disaster aid for FEMA, $1 billion of which would be considered emergency funding and made immediately. But it would have also been offset by cutting funding for the Department of Energy's Advanced technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, a program that gives loans to car companies to pay for things such as factory upgrades and the development of new, green, fuel efficient technology. Democrats argued that cutting funding for that program would have eliminated thousands of jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had emphasized to Republicans prior to the vote that the measure would be dead on arrival were it to reach the Senate, has now scheduled a Monday evening vote for a new proposal he says has the additional FEMA funding amount from House Continuing Resolution bill, but without the offsets to pay for it.

In the absence of congressional action, FEMA could run out of funding as early as Monday. The government would shut down after September 30.

Reid said he scheduled the vote for Monday to allow Republicans to "take the weekend and cool off."

"Take the weekend, work with us, cool off and let us work together to find common ground," he said. "So I am directly calling on Speaker Boehner, leader McConnell to pick any time to meet." 

Congress is scheduled to adjourn for recess next week, but Reid has said Democrats will forgo the break in order to work out a resolution.

House lawmakers said Friday morning, however, that they were adjourning that afternoon -- and called on the Senate to pass the bill.

"While we moved a responsible bill, it's time for the Senate to move the House-passed bill," House Speaker John Boehner said in a news conference. "It really is the most responsible thing to do, and any delay that occurs because of inaction by the Senate will only imperil the needed disaster relief for thousands of families all across the country."

Nevertheless, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in remarks after the vote, did not rule out the possibility of having the House return to Congress.

"If we are back, that means Harry Reid has shut down FEMA," he said.

Republicans, however, are predicting the failure of Reid's bill.

"The Senate can't even pass the bill that Harry Reid has," Cantor said. "Harry Reid is arguing with himself."

Cantor charged Reid with playing politics on the issue, and argued that "this is why the people don't have the respect for this institution and this town anymore."

"There is no reason that Harry Reid is holding this up other than politics," Cantor said. "Let's just get on with it and get the people their money."

In a press conference following the vote, Reid pinned responsibility on Republicans in the House, wondering, "Do they want the government to shut down? Do they want FEMA to close?" 

"FEMA will close," he emphasized.

The House rejected a similar Continuing Resolution on Wednesday, with 48 Republicans voting against it and six Democrats voting for it. Conservative Republicans argued that the measure failed to include sufficient reductions, but a change in the bill's language -- which resulted in cutting $100 million from the Department of Energy's Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program -- was enough to give some Republicans reason to change from no to yes.

In remarks on the House floor following the Senate vote Friday, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., said he thought it was "disconcerting" that Democrats had tabled the bill -- particularly in light of an upcoming House recess.

"We're going into recess for a week, we passed a bill to keep the government running," he said. "Now we find out they've tabled the bill... And now they're talking shutdown. It's an extremely disconcerting thing when it seems that one group believes that the best way to win politically is to have a shutdown and blame Republicans."