Once again Congress is tied up in knots over how to fund the government — complete with dire warnings that a critical agency, in this case FEMA, is about to run out of money and that the entire government could shut down by week’s end.
Here’s what you need to know: the government will not shutdown. FEMA will not run out of money. Congress can’t seem to do anything anymore without going into crisis mode, but top Democrats and Republicans in Congress tell me there is no doubt that this will be resolved.
Here’s what’s going on:
Congress must pass a funding bill before the fiscal year ends on Friday. FEMA also needs emergency disaster money to keep it running for the rest of this year — until the end of the week.
The showdown — which will play out with a Senate vote tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. — boils down to this: House Republicans passed a temporary funding bill last week but they off-set FEMA’s emergency money with about $1.5 billion in spending cuts to two alternative energy loan programs. Senate Democrats voted down the House bill because they oppose those cuts.
The off-setting cuts for the FEMA emergency funding represent a tiny portion of the overall bill to keep the government funded. And this is the only part of the bill in dispute.
There are three ways this dispute can be resolved — and will be resolved by Monday evening:
1: At 5:30, if Senate Democrats get the 60 votes they need to pass the bill without the off-setting cuts, the House will be forced to come back from recess and pass the new bill with Democratic support.
2: At 5:30, if Senate Democrats fail to get the 60 votes — and I believe this is more likely — they would be forced to pass the House bill and accept the cuts they don’t like.
3: The entire issue could be resolved before the 5:30 vote. How? The Administration is working to find accounting maneuvers that would enable it to find enough money to keep FEMA running for the rest of the week without more cash from Congress. If that happens, there will no longer be a need to have off-setting cuts and the dispute will be over.
At any rate, I am told FEMA is will now likely not run out of money on Tuesday as it previously warned.