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Congress Averts Government Shutdown, Thanks to FEMA


Congress reached a deal Monday night to keep the federal government operating when funding ends for the fiscal year on Friday.
 
The showdown was averted after Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials told Senate leaders they could get through this week without billions more in funding for disaster aid, removing the only sticking point between Republicans and Democrats over how to keep the government operating until Nov. 18.
 
“It’s a win for everyone,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.).
 
The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) by 79 to12 that funds the government until Nov. 18.  A second measure passed by voice vote keeps the government operating until Oct. 4 while Congress is in recess this week to observe Rosh Hashanah.
 
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) called the compromise “a reasonable way to keep the government operational.”
 
“FEMA indicated it already has the funds it needs for the duration of the current CR—without the billions more in emergency funds Democrats have been calling for,” McConnell said.
 
The agreement “gives FEMA the funds it needs without any added emergency spending for the rest of the current fiscal year, emergency funds that FEMA itself now says it doesn’t need,” McConnell said.
 
The Republican-led House passed a measure just after midnight Thursday to keep the government operational at fiscal year 2011 levels, which is higher than the budget levels set by Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.).
 
The House included an additional $3.65 billion in disaster-relief funding for FEMA, which claimed it would run out of money by Monday if the House and Senate did not act.
 
To offset that new funding, Republicans cut spending by $1.6 billion—$100 million from the guaranteed loan program that funded Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy last month and is under investigation by the FBI, and the rest from a program that funds the manufacture of environmentally friendly cars.
 
But Democrats wanted to give FEMA nearly $7 billion to continue operations, objected to making any spending cuts or offsets, and accused Republicans of killing jobs.
 
The Senate voted to table the House-passed CR on Friday, and Democrats said they would put forward their own plan without offsets late Monday, as the clock was ticking for FEMA to run out of money.
 
However, that measure authored by Reid failed to get the 60 votes needed Monday night and was shot down 54 to 35.  Senate Democrats announced that FEMA was able to find $114 million in funding that would keep the agency operational through the end of the week, so they stripped the controversial language, leaving Congress a “clean” CR with just the language that would keep the entire government operational.
 
House Republicans signaled after the Senate vote they would support the CR, which contains their original rate of spending.  “Senate Democrats have conceded that the spending level in the House-passed bill was the most responsible solution,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
 
“If it weren’t for House GOP efforts, the American taxpayers would have been on the hook for even more reckless borrowing by Washington Democrats,” Steel said.