Lawmakers have reached a bipartisan agreement that would fund the government through Nov. 18 and allocate disaster spending for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through 2012. The Senate was able to work around the impasse over disaster-relief spending because FEMA announced that it would not require any emergency funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 (Sept. 30).
Democrats objected to a House-passed CR that provided $1 billion in emergency funding offset by spending cuts. FEMA’s announcement means that funding is no longer necessary. Accordingly, the Senate voted 79-12 to approve a “clean” CR that removes that emergency spending (and offsets) while still funding FEMA through next year to the tune of $2.65 billion, the level agreed to in the House bill (Senate Democrats wanted $6.9 billion).
The Senate also passed, by a voice vote, a short-term CR to keep the government running through Oct. 4. Because the House is on recess this week, it must now approve the short-term measure by a unanimous consent agreement. Members will take up the longer-term measure when they return next week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) called the compromise “a win for everyone.” Meanwhile, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said that while he would have preferred for the Senate to simply pass the House version of the CR, the outcome was a “vindication” of the Republican argument that all spending, even for disaster relief, “needs accounting.”
Technically, it would only take the objection of one House member (paging Jeff Flake?) to thwart this arrangement, but that doesn’t appear likely at this point. But as with previous bipartisan agreements, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) will be able to release a sizable portion of his caucus to vote against the longer-term CR because House Democrats will be inclined to support it.
So if all goes according to plan, Congress will revisit the issue again in mid-November, just as the deficit supercommittee is scheduled to release its final recommendations. That should be fun.