More Brinksmanship and Another Possible Government Shutdown

More Brinksmanship and Another Possible Government Shutdown

Anyone who thought Capitol Hill would be chastened by public dismay over the brinksmanship that characterized the debt limit debate may have to think again.

One may cast blame on whichever party one chooses, but the two sides are again at odds, this time using a possible government shutdown on October 1 as hostage.

Republicans, who castigated Democrats during the election last year for being unable to pass the appropriations bills that fund the government in a timely manner, have not been able to achieve that goal either. Fiscal Year 2012 begins on October 1 and none of the 12 appropriations bills has cleared Congress (six have passed the House; one has passed the Senate).

Washington finds itself once more in need of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating until action can be completed on those bills. Both the House and Senate plan to be in recess next week as some members observe Rosh Hashanah, which means a CR must be passed this week.

The House Appropriations Committee proposed a CR last week that would fund the government through November 18, with a 1.5 percent cut in spending during that period.

That part is not controversial. But the two parties and two chambers are at odds over funds for disaster relief for recovering from tornados, floods, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, the east coast earthquake, wildfires in Texas and other natural disasters that have afflicted the United States this year.

The Senate passed legislation last week providing $6.9 billion for disaster relief (H. J. Res 66, as amended). Historically, disaster relief funds are treated as emergency spending for which budget offsets are not immediately required.

House Republicans instead want to include the disaster relief funds in the CR, are proposing only half that amount ($3.5 billion), and are demanding a $1.5 billion spending cut to clean-energy loans in return. According to The Washington Post blog, that is a program created by the Bush Administration for “loans to auto companies for developing electric cars and other fuel efficiency innovations.”

House and Senate Democrats are opposed to the Republican proposal both generally because disaster funds should not require offsets and specifically because cutting the loans would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, they say.

The House is expected to pass its bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has vowed to amend the bill with the legislation that already passed the Senate providing $6.9 billion in disaster relief and no offset. If that passes the Senate, the two sides would have to reach a compromise before the CR could be enacted.

Republican leaders are saying there will be no government shutdown, but Reid said today that “I’m not so sure” and “We’re not going to cave on this,” according to The Hill. Reid indicated that the Senate could change its schedule to be in session next week if necessary.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.