Washington continues to face another government shutdown after the Senate blocked a disaster-aid bill passed by the Republican-led House Friday. It is the latest battle in the yearlong partisan war over the increasing national deficit.
Early Friday, the House voted 219-203, mostly along party lines, for a spending bill to keep the government operating through Nov. 18. It provided $3.7 billion in new disaster assistance, partly offset with cuts in two loan programs that finance technological development.
However, the Democratic Senate could not accept the GOP terms that funding for victims of natural disasters be offset with cuts to clean energy programs. The Senate voted down the bill early Friday, 59-36.
Democrats in the Senate are saying that $3.7 billion is not enough, considering the accompanying $1.5 billion cut from a program to develop fuel-efficient.
The same program provided more than $500 million in funds to solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. The White House once praised Solyndra as a prime example of the future in job creation. Recently, though, the company has declared bankruptcy and has been forced to lay off 1,100 employees.
In response to the failed House measure, the Senate formed its own bill, providing $6.9 billion in disaster aid and no cuts to help pay for it. It was passed with the vote of 10 GOP senators.
The nation’s capital appears to still be playing tug-of-war with the country’s debt.
"Americans are tired of this partisanship. They deserve to know that when disasters strike, we will be there to help them," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., according to Politico.
"The fever hasn't broken – the behavior that we saw this summer that really repelled Americans continues," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
The crisis comes at a bad time for victims of recent natural disasters, who may be in need of federal aid. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the governmental organization that provides the aid, is quickly running out of money. According to reports, FEMA has $174 million left. That amount is expected to run dry, at the very latest, on Wednesday.
“There’s absolutely no reason, in my judgment, to delay funding for disasters until Monday,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on the Senate floor after learning his colleagues had just voted down the House bill.
Congress hopes to pass a stopgap spending bill before the end of September in order to avoid a shutdown. However, both houses are scheduled to be in recess next week; therefore, an agreement must be passed this weekend. If it isn’t, it is not clear if the scheduled recess will take place. Neither side wants the political blame for denying victims federal help in a time of need.
“Harry Reid will have to bear the burden of denying disaster victims the money that they need," proclaimed Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, according to the Miami Herald.