House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says Democrats may withhold their support for House legislation to fund the government if Republicans insist on pairing disaster relief with partisan budget cuts.
If Democrats vote against the funding bill en masse, it could leave House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) shy of the votes needed to pass the legislation, and force him to cut a deal on the Democrats’ terms. Because if the impasse isn’t bridged by the end of the month, the government will shut down.
“My presumption is they will offer a [funding bill] which has that offset in it and I think Democrats will be loath to support that effort,” Hoyer told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing.
The offset in question would nix a $1.5 billion incentive for hybrid vehicle production.
Recently, the top Democratic appropriator in the House, Norm Dicks (D-WA) said he’d reluctantly support the legislation — known as a continuing resolution — to avoid a government shutdown. But Democrats seem to have identified their leverage.
“You need to pass a CR, you need to keep the government funded, you don’t need to do it in this manner,” Hoyer said. “We have not yet made a decision on what we’ll do on this. I know Mr. Dicks’ comments and I agree with his comments. But that does not necessarily mean in the end that — the Senate disagrees with that, we agree with the Senate and we may vote that way.”
Last week, the Senate passed legislation to provide FEMA nearly $7 billion in emergency disaster relief money, sans offsets. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to pit House and Senate Republicans against each other over this issue — force his Republican colleagues to choose between the FEMA bill they helped pass on Thursday and their GOP allies in the House. Hoyer’s suggesting it may never get to that point.
“[E]ight times under George Bush we responded to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, other disasters, fires, and we did so by emergency funding,” Hoyer said. “The Republicans supported President Bush’s request for that, we think they ought to support President Obama’s request for that.”
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.