Shutdown specter rises once more

A possible government shutdown is suddenly looming after the House of Representatives defeated a continuing resolution late on the afternoon of Sept. 21. It marks the third time this year that a shutdown has become possible.

The representatives fought viciously over a disaster-relief spending item in the larger continuing resolution, with Republicans calling for fiscal responsibility by offsetting disaster spending, and Democrats accusing the other side of being “job killers.”

The continuing resolution, which includes $3.65 billion in disaster aid, is a stopgap measure needed to pay the federal government’s bills because Congress has so far failed to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills due by Oct. 1 – a problem Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) blamed on the previously Democrat-ruled House.

“We inherited a hell of a mess,” Dreier said.

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The resolution failed by a vote of 230-195, with Democrats largely rejecting it. If the government doesn’t agree to a funding measure by the end of September, the government could shut down.

A bipartisan version of the bill had already cleared the Senate, which provides the Federal Emergency Management Agency with $6.9 billion and no offsets. Democrats want to put the same language into the House version, which currently includes offsets.

If the House does eventually pass a continuing resolution, it still will have to go back to the Senate for that body’s approval. Without action from Congress, FEMA will run out of money before the end of September.

The Republicans have demanded that $1.5 billion be cut from the Energy Department’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program in order to offset the $1 billion designated for fiscal 2011 disaster-relief funds, taking aim at the federal deficit and “business as usual” in Washington.

House Democrats blasted the Republican effort as a move that would kill jobs and further damage the flagging U.S. economy.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) accused Republicans of playing political games and injecting politics into the stopgap continuing resolution, pointing out that the fuel-efficient vehicle program has created 40,000 jobs so far and will create tens of thousands more.

“Rhetoric cannot obscure reality; the reality is, this is an anti-jobs bill,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). “This will end a program that has created jobs…and will create thousands more jobs. It’s inexcusable.”

But Republicans countered that the fuel-efficient vehicle fund still has billions of dollars in its coffers that would be untouched by the offset measures – a point Democrats argued moot because of a number of projects already in the pipeline awaiting approval that would use up that balance.

Tea Party Republicans also disagreed with the disaster-fund measures in the continuing resolution on the grounds that it exceeded spending rates proposed by the Republicans earlier this year.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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