Senate Agreement Averts Government Shutdown

“We’ve averted a disaster,” said Senator Ben Campbell, D-Colo. “Until the next one.” He was speaking of the deal the Senate struck Monday night that will keep the federal government open for business beyond Friday, the end of the current fiscal year.

The government was brought to the near brink of a shutdown after the House last week rejected a stopgap spending bill that would have funded operations for a matter of months beyond October 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Some 182 House Democrats voted against the bill because it provided only $3.65 billion for disaster aid, little more than half the sum previously approved by the Senate. They were joined by 48 House Republicans who voted against the stopgap because it did fully offset the proposed disaster aid with spending cuts.

The impasse over disaster aid threatened to derail broader legislation funding government operations into the new fiscal year. It was the second time this year that partisan division brought to the government to the brink of a shutdown.

The latest crisis was resolved Monday not because Democrats and Republicans settled their differences, but because the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it would not run out of money Tuesday, as it previously projected.

That has taken the issue of federal disaster aid off the table, for the time being, which cleared the way for the Senate to approve a measure, by a bipartisan 79 to 12 vote, to keep the government running until November 18.

The deal provides FEMA funding to continue providing aid to disaster victims, although not the $6.9 billion the Senate previously approved and House Democrats supported.

Senate Democratic leaders decided they would punt that issue to November so that they can win House approval of the temporary spending bill this week, averting the looming government shutdown.

“This compromise should satisfy Republicans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “And it should satisfy Democrats.” He was echoed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who declared the Senate measure a “reasonable way to keep the government operational.”

Of course, the reason the federal government even faced the threat of a shutdown is because Congress has yet to pass any of the 12 annual spending bills for the new fiscal year. As a result, stopgap legislation was necessary to fund continued government operations.

It seems improbable that lawmakers will approve all 12 spending bills between now and November 18, in addition to considering the $447 billion jobs plan President Obama proposed earlier this month, and finding ways to winnow the national debt.

That portends yet another crisis on Capitol Hill, and yet more political brinksmanship, in little more than two months.

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