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Senate reaches deal likely to avert shutdown

September 26, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), left, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) answer questions at a press conference regarding a potential government shutdown Friday on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), left, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer… (Associated Press / J. Scott…)

The Senate was headed toward an agreement to temporarily fund the government and provide disaster aid, heading off an escalating a partisan stalemate with just days left to avoid a government shutdown.

Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to vote late Monday evening. The measure would still need approval in the GOP-led House.

The potential agreement defuses the partisan standoff that had been heading toward a showdown as both federal disaster aid and money to fund the government were about to run out by the end of the week. The new fiscal year begins Saturday.

Republicans had been refusing to provide supplemental aid to victims of Hurricane Irene and other disasters without spending cuts elsewhere.

Under the agreement being voted on Monday, both the federal government and disaster aid would be temporarily funded through Nov. 18, without the spending cuts to green energy programs Republicans had insisted on as a way to pay for disaster aid.

Republicans had insisted that funds be offset only for supplemental aid for 2011 – about $1 billion beyond what had been budgeted for the fiscal year. But since the Federal Emergency Management Agency now says disaster aid can last through Friday, the end of the fiscal year, no additional funds – and presumably no offsets -- would be needed.

The spending level for 2012 was $2.65 billion, less than half the amount Democrats wanted.

The bill being considered in the Senate – if approved by both the Senate and House --  would also allow a temporary one-week extension of government and FEMA funds, through Oct. 4, giving the House the opportunity to revisit the issue and vote for the broader package when it returns next week.

Both sides had hoped to avoid another high-stakes showdown so soon after the divisive debt ceiling debate this summer and a threatened government shutdown in spring. Those episodes left Americans deeply disappointed in Congress.

Little time remains to resolve the impasse. The House has already adjourned for a weeklong break and the Senate is preparing to recess by Wednesday for the Jewish holiday.

On Monday, the Senate also rejected an earlier compromise from Democrats.

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