Shutdown Showdown: House Delivers Blow to Boehner as Spending Bill Fails

Evan Vucci/AP Photo

In a major setback to House Speaker John Boehner, the House of Representatives voted tonight 195-230 to reject a stop-gap measure to fund the federal government through Nov. 18 over disagreements on the level of disaster relief funding in the bill.

Despite the GOP’s confidence that the continuing resolution [CR] would pass, 48 House Republicans bucked their GOP colleagues to join the vast majority of House Democrats in their opposition. Just six Democrats voted with 189 Republicans in favor of the measure.

At issue was the amount of disaster relief funding Congress should enact. The Senate last week passed a $7 billion FEMA relief bill. The bill was sent to the House for passage but House Republicans had a different strategy for FEMA funding, attaching the disaster relief to the CR.

The House legislation that failed this evening would have provided a little more than half the disaster relief money as Senate bill, with $3.65 billion for disaster recovery, including approximately $1 billion divided between FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make up shortages in FY 2011, and an additional $2.65 billion for the full FY 2012.

The obvious question now is what happens next? The current CR that keeps the government running runs out at the end of the fiscal year next Friday, Sept. 30. But the House and Senate are both scheduled to be out of session next week for the Rosh Hashanah holiday, so lawmakers are scrambling to bridge their differences in order to avoid a government shutdown.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Republicans to bring a clean CR to the floor and separately pass the Senate’s legislation to increase disaster relief funding.

“The rejection of this bill that destroys jobs was bipartisan,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “The House Republican leadership should now bring to the floor a clean CR and the bipartisan relief package already passed by the Senate.”

Tuesday, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is tasked with tracking support for the GOP on roll call votes, all but guaranteed the CR would pass through the House, and he suggested if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the amount of disaster relief, there would not be a sufficient number of votes to pass the GOP-led House.

“[The continuing resolution] will pass out of here and go to the Senate. If Reid wants to play politics with it, I think that is wrong, and I think it is shame on him,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday. “From understanding of the floor, the votes, if Reid does what he does, I don’t see the votes on the floor for it. So he is holding up the ability for individuals to get the relief.”

Following the vote, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that the bill’s defeat sends “a clear message to Republicans…that the American people want a bipartisan approach to running our government.”

“We should immediately pass disaster relief that meets the needs of our people and protect – not cut – programs proven to create jobs while we reduce the deficit,” Hoyer stated. “If Republican leaders bring a bill to the floor that honors the bipartisan agreement from August, they will find it has bipartisan support for passage.”

The CR adopted the $1.043 trillion spending cap enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the debt limit increase passed by the House in August 2011. In the end, many Republicans voted against the measure not because of the disaster relief funding, but because they did not believe the bill cut enough spending.

“I was raised to believe that if you owe a debt, you pay that debt, no matter how painful—and make changes to ensure it does not happen again. With this legislation, it is clear that Washington never learned that lesson,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said in a statement following the vote. “I cannot support raising the level of discretionary spending for next year while America hemorrhages debt. Washington ran up our bill and now it must cut up the credit card. I will continue to hold Washington to its word. ”

“This level of spending is far from meeting the goal we set for ourselves before coming to Washington last November,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, stated. “It’s business as usual, with another missed deadline and another missed opportunity to finally put an end to the out-of-control spending that has put our nation’s economic health in crisis.”

Two House Republicans seeking the GOP presidential nomination, Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas, did not vote on the measure. The other House Republican seeking the nomination, Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan, voted in favor of the bill.