Senate Votes Government Funding and FEMA Deal Through: Shutdown Averted

In the end, they fought until there wasn’t much left to fight about.

“Let’s fight when there’s something to fight about, there’s nothing to fight about tonight,’” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor this evening, “We’ve basically resolved this issue.”

Or to put it a little more correctly — they fought until FEMA’s updated accounting really resolved the issue.

Today’s afternoon announcement that FEMA would have enough money to keep it up and running until the end of the week paved the way forward for the Senate to reach a deal tonight that will keep the government and FEMA running. Both Republican and Democratic leaders acknowledged that FEMA’s announcement unlocked the deadlock and gave both sides a way out.

“Today’s news story coming out saying that FEMA’s disaster aid has enough money to last through this fiscal year, and this afternoon I received word from Jack Lew of OMB and FEMA that they will be able to get though the week without additional funding,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “That means that they can get through the fiscal year without more money.”

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Ky., came to the Senate floor afterward and agreed, saying it is a “compromise” and a “reasonable way” to keep the government operational.

“FEMA indicated it already has the funds it needs for the duration of the current [Continuing Resolution] which is basically this week, without the billions more in funding the Democrats have been calling for,” McConnell said. “Quite frankly I think this is a vindication of what Republicans have been saying all along: Before we spend the taxpayers’ money we should have a real accounting, a real accounting of what is actually needed.”

By a bipartisan vote of 79-12 this evening the Senate approved a clean, six-week CR with no supplemental FY11 funds and no offsets to fund the government through Nov. 18. The measure gives FEMA $2.65 billion in funds for the next fiscal year, starting next week, without any added emergency spending for the end of this fiscal year. In addition the Senate passed a one-week CR to fund the government through Oct. 4 by a voice vote that the majority leader’s office says is in case Speaker Boehner needs additional time to bring the House back into session to finish the job on the six-week CR.

Although both sides in the Senate tonight seemed happy the brinkmanship was over, for the time being, McConnell found one last reason to tweak his Democratic colleagues in the Senate a bit before voting tonight.

“In my view this entire fire drill was completely and totally unnecessary, but I am glad a resolution appears to be at hand,” McConnell said.

The Senate has wrapped up its work for this week and will adjourn until next week. This measure will now be sent to the House of Representatives. The hope is that the House can pass the whole six-week package by voice vote (i.e.: unanimously) but the House may only be able to pass the one-week extension, so the Senate is giving that option to them as well.

“I hope the House will come back from their little break here and continue this work as fast as they can,” Reid said, noting that the House would have “poor judgment” if it did not come back to pass this through this week.

If they do not, Reid said the one week funding bill that the Senate passed tonight provides a short-term funding bill until Oct. 4.