Senate Hopes to End Budget Standoff With Compromise Monday

The Democratic-controlled Senate plans to seek a new vote on a revised federal spending bill Monday to prevent a potential government shutdown after rejecting a House-passed measure a week before the current fiscal year ends.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he was preparing to offer a compromise package Monday that would accept the GOP’s lower overall disaster relief spending levels but without any cuts to clean energy programs, CNN reported early Saturday.

With relief funds for victims of natural disasters and a possible government shutdown at stake, choices are not easy for Reid, who ordered a Monday session despite Congress being scheduled to have a weeklong recess next week.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is considering funding options to carry on with relief work in the event of lack of consensus until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, according to FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen.

FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund had just $175 million as of Friday morning and could run out of funds by early next week.

“If Congress does allow the balance of the Disaster Relief Fund to reach zero, there are laws that govern federal agency operations in the absence of funding,” FEMA said in a statement Friday. “Under law, FEMA would be forced to temporarily shut down disaster recovery and assistance operations, including financial assistance to individuals until Congress appropriated more funds. This would include all past and current FEMA recovery operations.”

Reid suggested that congressmen and senators “cool off for a little bit.”

“There’s a compromise here,” he was quoted as saying. “More reasonable heads will prevail.”
However, his hope seemed uncertain as of Saturday morning, as House leaders said they were not sure if they would call their members back to Washington during the scheduled recess.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was quoted as saying, “With FEMA expected to run out of disaster funding as soon as Monday, the only path to getting assistance into the hands of American families immediately is for the Senate to approve the House bill.”

The bone of contention is how to provide more funds to the disaster emergency fund.

Early Friday, the Republican-controlled House voted 219-203 for a spending bill to allow the government to operate through Nov. 18. It included $3.65 billion for the disaster fund that would be partially offset by cutting $1 billion from a loan program to develop energy-efficient automobiles.

However, Senate Democrats voted down the bill 59-36. The Democrats had approved $6.9 billion for the disaster fund without offsetting cuts.

Democrats argue that spending cuts must not accompany urgent emergency aid. Moreover, they say, cuts would affect clean-energy programs which will create jobs. Republicans, on the other hand, insist that with a $14 trillion-plus national debt the government cannot demand for spending in a usual manner.

This is the third time the government is facing a potential shutdown this year. More such possibilities are likely to emerge in the near future as the stopgap measure being discussed concerns just seven weeks of funding.

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