Federal Relations

September 26, 2011

Five Days to Shutdown

With just five days until the end of the current federal fiscal year, congressional leaders continue to work to resolve an impasse over how to pay for disaster aid that threatens to shut down the government on Friday at midnight. 

There appears to be bipartisan support for a continuing resolution (CR) that would allow the government to keep operating through November 18th at a rate that reflects the $1.043 trillion annual limit set by the debt limit law (PL 112-25) enacted in August.  Disaster aid funding appears to be the main stumbling block.  While no one questions the need for the assistance in the wake of a string of natural disasters this year, there is much disagreement over how to pay for this aid.  Democrats believe it is unfair to call for the emergency aid to be offset, something they say has not been done before, while Republicans say offsets are needed to keep federal spending constrained so that is doesn’t contribute to the federal deficit.

The Senate is scheduled for a procedural vote tonight at 5:30pm on an amendment, proposed by Majority Leader Reid (D-NV), to the House-passed CR that would remove the spending offsets for the bill’s recovery aid.  It would require 60 votes to pass and would also require the House to agree to the changes before it could be sent to the President for signature.  However, Senate Democrats may not have the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.  If the Senate does not accept the House-passed CR that would keep the government operating when FY12 starts on Saturday (October 1st) or if the Senate does not come to an agreement to change the measure that might win unanimous consent in the House, the issue probably cannot be resolved before Tuesday at the earliest.  With both chambers scheduled to be in recess this week to observe the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah (beginning at sundown on Wednesday), congressional leaders have limited time to come to a resolution to avoid a government shutdown. 

Sources:  Congressional Quarterly, Politico