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Passage of House CR in Doubt

A groundswell of defections from both parties against the short-term continuing resolution have put in question whether House Republicans have enough votes to pass the measure later today.

Although GOP leaders had hoped to quickly move the CR through the House this week and avoid yet another divisive fight over spending, it appeared this morning that the bill was in serious jeopardy.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is whipping against this afternoon’s CR vote, said a “great majority of Democrats” will oppose the measure mostly in protest against a $1.5 billion offset in the bill to pay for disaster aid.

In fact, while GOP leadership knew conservatives would be unhappy, dissatisfaction was now also spreading within Democratic ranks.

“I expect and will vote no on the CR today. [Appropriations Ranking Member Norm] Dicks will be voting no on the CR today, and I believe the overwhelming majority of our Caucus will be voting no,” Hoyer said at a press conference.

The House CR includes $3.6 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding. The bill also offsets about $1 billion of that spending by cutting 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.

Dicks had previously indicated he would support the CR despite misgivings about the offsets for emergency funding. But the Washington Democrat said that a “fervor” over the pay-for ultimately pushed him into the “no” category.

“On reflection, and after a lot of Members have come to us, the leadership has decided … (because) the source of the funding is a job-creation program, we’re going to oppose it,” Dicks said after leaving a Caucus meeting this morning.

The Democratic defections now put passage of the CR in jeopardy because more than 50 House Republicans are expected to defect from their leadership and vote against it. Those conservatives charge that the more than $1 trillion total is higher than what was set out under the GOP budget approved earlier this year. GOP leaders have urged the rank and file to go along with the higher level, which was set under the terms of the debt deal this summer, to avoid another spending showdown.

Exiting the Republican Conference meeting this morning, one GOP Member said, “The question is whether we have the votes in the House.”

And Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declined to say whether Republicans had the vote to pass the measure.

“I’m not the Whip,” Cantor said. “So I cannot opine, nor maybe would I, if I were the Whip, as to what the count [is].”

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and Members have a recess scheduled for next week. House Democrats oppose the offset in their chamber’s spending bill, and Senate Democrats contend that the $3.6 billion disaster level in the House measure is inadequate. They also oppose the offset, and they argue that House Republicans are reneging on an agreement to provide as much as $11 billion over spending caps settled on in the deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Wednesday blamed House Republican leaders for the possibility of a government shutdown.

“We don’t need this,” Durbin said. “We have faced two previous threats this year from the tea-party-dominated House of Representatives.”

Senate Democrats and House Republicans squared off in the beginning of the year over funding for fiscal 2011 and in the summer over passage of legislation to raise the debt ceiling. Failure to come to agreement on those two issues would have resulted in government programs running out of money.

“At this perilous moment in economic history, we shouldn’t face a government shutdown again, and Republican leaders should not be suggesting that as an alternative,” Durbin said. “We need to work together.”

Humberto Sanchez and Jonathan Strong contributed to this story.

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