By Russell Berman - 09/23/11 04:42 AM EDT
The House early Friday narrowly approved a stopgap spending measure to keep the federal government running through Nov. 18, as Republican leaders secured the votes of conservatives who had rejected a similar bill a day earlier.
The 219-203 vote sets up a confrontation with the Senate, where Democratic leaders have vowed to block the measure in a dispute over federal disaster aid.
Boehner chose his right flank, adding a sweetener in the form of a $100 million rescission to the loan guarantee program that funded the bankrupt energy company Solyndra.
Twenty-four Republicans opposed the measure, half the number that voted against when it failed on Wednesday. Six Democrats supported it.
Congress must pass a stopgap spending bill by Sept. 30 to avert a government shutdown. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be on recess next week, adding to the urgency of reaching an agreement by the weekend.
Democrats opposed the GOP bill en masse because it partially offsets $3.65 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with a $1.5 billion cut to a separate Department of Energy manufacturing loan program.
“The bill the House will vote on tonight is not an honest effort at compromise. 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,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement Thursday night before the House vote.
“I was optimistic that my House Republican colleagues would learn from their failure yesterday and move towards the middle. Instead, they moved even further towards the Tea Party.”
Reid said the Senate was ready to stay in session next week, potentially canceling its scheduled recess. The House bill would fund the government through Nov. 18.
By pushing ahead with a tweaked version of his original bill, Boehner is hoping to jam the Senate with time running out.
While the federal government has funding through Sept. 30, FEMA will run out of money by Monday, officials in both parties have said.
"I urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill so we can send it to the president and keep our focus on the American people’s top priority: jobs," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement after the vote. "This common-sense measure cuts spending for the second year in a row and protects our struggling economy from the uncertainty of a government shutdown."
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the Republican whip, said afterward that the outcome was known beforehand or GOP leaders would not have brought the measure to the floor a second time.
"Never make the same mistake twice," he said, alluding to Wednesday's failed vote.
The fight over a tiny sliver of the federal budget brought both parties back to the kind of brinksmanship they sought to avoid upon returning to Washington earlier this month. More than the $100 million cut for Solyndra, GOP lawmakers said it was the Democratic opposition that had drawn conservatives back to the leadership bill.
"We're intending that the money gets to FEMA and to disaster victims as they need it," Cantor said after the vote. "Harry Reid's political ploy is not going to work."
If Senate Democrats kill the House bill, "then I guess Harry Reid will have to bear the burden of denying disaster ... victims the money that they need," Cantor charged.
Cantor stopped just short of saying he would free his conference to leave town for the scheduled recess.
"The plan is right now for us to finish our work tomorrow — to do the TRAIN Act — and to complete business for the week," he said.
As debate dragged on toward midnight, tensions on the House floor intensified.
"This bill is an embarrassment," Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said. "This bill is not worthy of this Congress."
"This House is badly broken," added Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.). "This Republican leadership is out of touch. This process is a disgrace."
With the Senate vowing to reject the measure, Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said the Friday vote was “kind of a metaphysical exercise.”
The Obama administration has not threatened to veto the GOP bill, but a White House spokesman praised the House for rejecting it on Wednesday.
Several conservatives who opposed the measure on Wednesday reportedly spoke up during the closed-door meeting to say they would switch their votes.
The measure failed on Wednesday by a vote of 195-230. The four dozen Republicans who voted against the bill did so largely because it kept 2012 spending levels above the cap set by the House GOP budget.
Pete Kasperowicz and Mike Lillis contributed.