The House of Representatives voted down a temporary measure to fund the government into the next fiscal year, once again bringing the nation to the brink of a shutdown.
The new fiscal year begins on October 1, and Congress has yet to pass a budget.
The House has passed only six of 12 budget bills, while the Senate has passed just one — even while lawmakers agree on the total amount of federal spending for next year, a figure set as part of the debt ceiling deal in August.
The showdown now is over federal disaster spending, with Democrats demanding $6.9 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s relief fund, and Republicans only offering $3.65 billion now, with offsetting spending cuts.
House Republican leaders expressed confidence that the bill would pass, and the 195-230 vote against the measure came as an embarrassment, with near-unified Democratic opposition and many conservative Republicans breaking ranks because they weren’t satisfied with the amount of spending cuts included in the bill.
The Rules committee gave the GOP leadership the ability to introduce and vote on a temporary funding bill on the same day — instead of waiting the three days required under House rules — though there are as yet no indications that they are planning to amend their bill to gain Democratic support.
If Democrats and Republicans cannot agree to a new six-week “continuing resolution,” then the federal government will run out of money on October 1, closing all but the most essential government services for the first time since 1996.
This standoff is more similar to the shutdown battle in April — which was resolved less than an hour before the government would have to close — than the August debt ceiling debate, since there is no threat of default.
But a shutdown is no cakewalk, potentially impacting one million federal employees — and tens of thousands of federal contractors. A broad swath of government programs and offices would be shuttered, save for those related to national security.
Congress is scheduled to begin a week-long vacation tomorrow, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office informed lawmakers on Wednesday that it may be delayed for a weekend session to pass the funding bill.
And even if they do reach an agreement, the countdown clock immediately restarts to November 18, when this stopgap measure expires.
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