The House and Senate were at an impasse Thursday morning over how to keep the government funded, with officials saying weekend votes were a distinct possibility.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in floor comments that the Senate was waiting for House GOP leaders to decide their next move after the GOP's government-funding bill was defeated in a shocking Wednesday vote.
“We don’t know what they are going to do over there today,” Reid said from the Senate floor. “All kinds of rumors are floating around and I haven’t spoken to the speaker or the majority leader over there on what they might do.”
Reid sought Thursday to place all the blame on House GOP leaders, who lost a 195-230 vote on Wednesday. Most Democrats voted against the measure because they wanted it to include more disaster funding, but 48 conservative Republicans also voted no. They said their leaders should have made deeper cuts to funding and want the spending measure to be based on the House GOP's budget, and not the summer debt ceiling deal.
“We are going to be on alert and waiting for the House to act,” Reid said. “We are really at an impasse here not because of what we are doing but because of what they are doing.”
GOP leaders must decide whether to give ground to Democrats or their conservative colleagues in order to move forward. Or they must convince their members to support their bill.
It's possible the House will try to pass another measure on Thursday. The House Rules Committee scheduled an "emergency" meeting on Wednesday night to approve a rule that would allow the House to consider a rule for legislation on the same day it is approved by the committee. Normally House rules don't allow such a maneuver.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) warned members of the House late Wednesday that weekend work may be needed to finish up a continuing spending resolution.
"Members are advised that a weekend session is now possible," Cantor said in a note outlining Thursday's expected schedule.
Asked Wednesday if the bill’s defeat increased the possibility of a government shutdown, Cantor replied: “I don’t think so.”
“In the end,” he said, “we’ll do what’s right by the people who put us here. It’s just part of the process unfortunately.”
Boehner had tried, unsuccessfully, to rally Republicans behind the bill, warning them in a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday that the level of spending was likely only to increase if their legislation failed.
“Boehner just broke it down pretty simple,” said freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.). “He goes, ‘I know there are some of you out here who don’t want to vote for this thing, but if you don’t, you think this is a big number? Wait until you see what we get back, and we’re not in the driver’s seat then.’ ”
The House was already on a collision course with the Senate over the level of funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The House bill included $3.65 billion for FEMA, with about $1 billion of that money offset by a cut to an energy program supporting loans for the production of fuel-efficient cars. The Senate had already approved $6.9 billion in disaster relief, and Reid had vowed to try to amend the House bill to match that level.
Russell Berman and Pete Kasperowicz contributed to this story.