The more Republicans and Democrats insist they’re not interested in another government shutdown fight, the more they show themselves to be fighting their impulses.
Now, two of the top Republicans in the House say the Senate has little choice but to pass their federal funding bill — including its controversial disaster relief provision — or risk a shutdown, and a lapse in government services for people in need of help from FEMA.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll send legislation to avoid a shutdown back to the House, with additional disaster relief money, and no controversial spending cuts, and dare Republicans to vote it down. They may very well do that that.
The consequences, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters Tuesday, “will be on Leader Reid’s shoulders because he’s the one playing politics with this.”
“If Reid does what he does, I don’t see the votes on the floor for it,” said House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “So he’s holding up the ability for individuals to get the relief.”
A few things are going on here. Senate Democrats, and nearly a dozen Republicans, want more money for FEMA than the House is offering up. And Democrats in both chambers oppose the offset House Republicans have chosen — a fund meant to spur production of hybrid vehicles.
All the ingredients are there for gridlock. But there are a number of possible resolutions. House Republicans may not have the votes on to pass their funding bill on their own and would then have to cut a deal with Democrats on disaster relief. If they do, Senate Democrats could ultimately back down, and use GOP intransigence over disaster funding as a political weapon in the 2012 elections. But if both parties dig in, we’ll go down to the wire of a government shutdown again.
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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.