Senate Democrats want all eyes on the 10 Republicans, from disaster-affected states, who voted last week for a nearly $7 billion emergency bill to re-up FEMA’s relief account. They hold the key to whether or how not just FEMA, but the entire United States government will be funded after its current appropriations lapse at the end of the month.
As noted extensively Tuesday, the questions of how and by what amount to provide disaster relief are the only obstacles to passing legislation to keep the federal lights on into the fall. Senate Democrats (and presumably these 10 Republicans) want to significantly bolster FEMA’s account, and do so without arguing over budget cuts to offset the cost.
House Republicans are offering up about half as much, and only on the condition that the funds be matched by nixing a $1.5 billion hybrid vehicle manufacturing incentive. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says he’s not backing down. When the House sends the Senate its government funding bill Reid’s going to force a vote on an amendment to swap out the House’s FEMA provision with his own.
So now the question is, Will those 10 Republicans continue to stand with Reid? Or will they buck him and join House Republicans?
For now they’re largely demurring.
“I need some kind of commitment [from House Republicans] that we’re going to meet these needs,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters Tuesday night.
Helpfully for Democrats, one of the Republicans they’re eyeing — Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) — recently sought funds for a local business under the very same program his party is now trying to kill.
“We are writing to reiterate our strong support for Next Autoworks Company’s loan application under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program,” he wrote in a December letter with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA). “Every day that Next Autoworks’ application is delayed is another day that workers cannot be hired to begin work at the Monroe site and help mitigate our state’s continued high unemployment rate.”
Joining Blunt and Vitter were Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
Dems, particularly along the eastern seaboard, want to see FEMA’s account substantially re-upped. But if Republicans kill their FEMA measure, they’ll have a potent political weapon to wield at them through election season.
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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.