In a step back from the brink, Senate Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a continuing resolution that would include $2.5 billion in disaster aid funding and which would eliminate the chance of a government shutdown next week.
The Senate approved a new continuing resolution by a 79-12 vote, after cloture failed on the original CR offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Earlier on Monday, just before Senate Republicans filibustered Reid's proposed CR, aides in both parties announced a compromise bill with reduced disaster-aid funding. The key to the deal was reducing disaster funding from $3.65 billion to $2.5 billion and otherwise keeping the measure a "clean CR." The bill funds the government through Nov. 18, but since the House still needs to approve the deal, the Senate also approved a short-term CR that the House can approve by unanimous consent on Thursday. That step will give the House time to consider the longer CR next week.
“This compromise should satisfy Republicans, because it includes their own 2012 funding level and it should satisfy Democrats,” Reid said.
The possibility of a government shutdown—the third in less than a year—has loomed large over Washington since last week when the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House clashed over disaster funding—how much and how it might be offset by other spending cuts. A key to Monday’s deal was a Federal Emergency Management Agency announcement that is has enough funds to keep providing disaster assistance through Friday—the last day of the fiscal year. That news reduced the need for an immediate stopgap measure and for disputed offsets to FY11 spending.
“Some updated accounting by FEMA has helped us reach a breakthrough,” Reid said in a Monday night news conference.
The deal likely averted a shutdown even as it highlighted the inability of the divided Congress to agree on almost any spending measure without brinksmanship and cross-chamber sniping. The new agreement will only keep the government running through mid-November, just days before the super committee is charged with offering its recommendations on cutting the federal deficit.
House Republicans and Senate Democrats look likely to lock horns again over those potential spending cuts and over how to fund government for the rest of 2012. Senators in both parties noted Monday’s deal leaves open the possibility of another fight over whether to offset disaster aid that time.
Reid argued Monday that Republicans would rue that fight. “If they want to go through this again then they are really looking for more losses,” he told reporters.