Shutdown a Step Closer as Senate Kills House Bill

The Senate vote was 59 to 36 to table the House bill, effectively killing it. Some conservative Republicans joined in rejecting the measure.

The House, in the wee hours of Friday morning, had passed its latest version of a stopgap spending bill after rejecting on Wednesday a nearly identical version of the legislation, which is needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30 and to provide assistance to victims of natural disasters. The House vote was 219 to 203.

House Republican leaders, trying to recover from a humiliating political defeat, had made one change in the bill — but it was one that most Democrats in the House and Senate opposed, trimming green energy loans. The new version would offset more of the cost of disaster assistance by rescinding $100 million from an Energy Department program that guaranteed a loan for Solyndra, the solar equipment manufacturer that filed recently for bankruptcy protection.

The bill, to finance government operations for seven weeks after the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, had faced problems in the Senate, where Democrats want to spend more without cutting other programs to offset the cost.

Senate Democratic leaders had said all along that the House version would be swiftly rejected in the Senate, which had already passed a version of its own. Indeed, the senators acted even before the House version had formally arrived for their consideration.

“The House bill is not an honest effort at compromise,” said the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada. “It fails to provide the relief that our fellow Americans need as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of floods, wildfires and hurricanes, and it will be rejected by the Senate.”

Mr. Reid said he had hoped that House Republicans would move toward the middle. “Instead,” he said, “they moved even further toward the Tea Party.”

It is not clear how the two houses will overcome the impasse and avert a government shutdown. Most federal agencies need money to continue operations beyond Oct. 1. The disaster relief fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is running short of money. And lawmakers are planning to leave town for a recess scheduled for next week.

House Republican leaders, who lost control of their caucus on Wednesday, worked furiously on Thursday to round up votes for the revised version of the stopgap bill.

They prevailed by halving the number of defections from their ranks. On Wednesday, 48 Republicans voted against the bill. On Friday, just 24 voted no. Representative David Dreier, Republican of California and chairman of the Rules Committee, said it had been “an ugly, messy, difficult process.” The purpose of the change, he said, was to prevent “another boondoggle like Solyndra.”

The new version of the House bill, like the original, would have partially offset the cost of disaster assistance by cutting a separate Energy Department loan program that promotes development of energy-efficient cars. This cut infuriates Democrats in the House and the Senate, who say the program is creating thousands of jobs at automakers and auto parts suppliers.

“The bill was wrong yesterday, the bill is wrong today,” Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said Thursday night on the House floor. “Virtually nothing has changed.”

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said Republicans were offering “the same old warmed-over stew that was rejected” on Wednesday.

Speaker John A. Boehner had solicited the views of his colleagues at a meeting of the House Republican Conference, where lawmakers expressed frustration at the setback they suffered Wednesday on the bill to provide $3.65 billion in disaster relief.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 23, 2011

An earlier version of this article misspelled John Boehner’s surname as Borehner at one point.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/us/politics/house-republicans-hope-to-regroup-on-spending-bill.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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