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House Votes Down Government Funding, Disaster Aid Bill

Updated: 6:48 p.m.

The House threw the appropriations process into chaos today, voting down a stopgap funding resolution that conservative Republicans and virtually all Democrats opposed. The vote increases the likelihood that both chambers will encroach on next week’s scheduled recess in order to avert a government shutdown.

The continuing resolution, which failed 195-230, must now be redrafted so lawmakers can pass it before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

GOP conservatives and Democrats opposed the CR for different reasons, but the overall result was a repudiation of House Republican leaders, who had pleaded with their rank and file to go along with the measure and avoid a continuation of the spending and budget wars that have defined the 112th Congress.

House Republican leaders had been wrestling to get the votes of conservatives, but 48 Republicans ended up voting against the bill.

The conservatives opposed the measure because it adheres to the $1.043 trillion discretionary spending level set in the deal to boost the debt ceiling enacted last month. Those conservatives preferred to spend at the $1.019 trillion level set out in the House-passed budget resolution.

More than 50 Members signed on to a recent letter from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) complaining about the CR’s higher spending level.

The failure to pass the CR came as a shock, particularly after House Republicans kept their Conference together for the vote on the rule earlier in the afternoon.

The bill also went down as a result of House Democrats unifying against it. Only six Democrats backed the bill.

Democrats opposed the House CR primarily over the level of funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The House CR included $3.6 billion for FEMA disaster funding, of which roughly $1 billion would be offset by cutting funds for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which helps the auto industry retool or expand factories to produce fuel-efficient technology.

House Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who had previously said he would support the CR, voted “no” on Wednesday after what he described asw a “fervor” of opposition among his colleagues and a decision by leadership to go against the bill. Seventy-seven Democrats also sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling for him to scrap the offset targeting the ATVM program, which the group maintained “has a demonstrated record of success and job creation.”

At a press conference today, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, “This money that they’re cutting, which deals with making sure we have advanced technology for automobiles that are competitive in the global market and that will create jobs here at home now, is a bad policy in and of itself.”

Despite the wide-scale defection of his own Conference, Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers sought to place the blame on the Democrats, who “voted almost to a person to shut down the government.”

The Kentucky Republican said he was “disappointed” that not enough of his GOP colleagues voted in favor of the CR, but he calmly dismissed questions about the House’s failure to pass the six-week spending bill.

“This is a democracy, and this is the sausage factory. People who sell sausage don’t want you to see behind the doors,” he said.

Erica Elliott, a spokeswoman for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said in a statement, “This bill was designed to pass with Democrat votes, in part based on assurances from Reps. Dicks and Hoyer that they would vote for it. Frankly, it’s shocking as many Republicans voted for it as did.”

So now Rogers and GOP leaders will draft another bill.

But if they retool to make the CR even leaner, it will create problems in the Senate, where Democrats were arguing that even the initial CR’s $3.6 billion disaster level was inadequate. They also oppose the ATVM offset and argue that House Republicans are reneging on an agreement to provide up to $11 billion over spending caps settled on in the deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“House Republicans, obsessed with pleasing a group of tea party radicals, are refusing to give the Federal Emergency Management Agency the funding it needs to reconstruct ravaged communities across this great nation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today. “And they’re threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get what they want.”

If the House had passed the CR, the Nevada Democrat had intended to try to amend it with legislation passed by the Senate last week that would provide nearly $7 billion for disaster aid. Further complicating matters, it was unclear whether Reid could get enough votes for that.

“Over the last two decades, almost 90 percent of the money Congress has authorized for disaster relief has been done outside of the regular budget process,” Reid said. “I ask my Republican colleagues, why should today be different?”

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