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Published: Monday, 9/26/2011

Congress heads back to vote on funding

WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — Congress returns Monday to try to pass a short-term funding measure to prevent a government shutdown and yet another market-rattling showdown over the federal budget.

The Democratic-led Senate, which on Friday blocked a GOP House measure to fund the government through Nov. 18, is expected to vote Monday night on its own version of the bill.

The Senate bill includes disaster relief without an offsetting cut elsewhere, which House Republicans demand.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Sunday that leaders have been in touch, but congressional aides said no progress toward compromise occurred over the weekend.

Lawmakers who appeared on talk shows Sunday gave little sign that they would move quickly from their positions.

“The Senate is saying ... why should we, in effect, rebuild schools in Iraq on the credit card but expect that rebuilding schools in Joplin, Mo., at this moment in time has to be paid for in a way that has never been in any of the previous disaster assistance that we’ve put out before?” Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) said on CNN’s State of the Union.

He blamed the dispute on Tea Party-affiliated Republicans in the House who demanded the spending cut.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) spoke on the same program.

“Everybody knows we’re going to pay for every single penny of disaster aid that the President declares and that FEMA certifies. And the House sent over a bill that does that and the Senate should have approved it.”

He blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) for manufacturing a crisis over funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But Mr. Warner and Mr. Alexander, who have been pushing for more bipartisan cooperation on the far more difficult and consequential task of deficit reduction, appeared weary of the mess, which Mr. Warner characterized as embarrassing.

Said Mr. Alexander, “I don’t like this business of sitting around blaming each other over such small potatoes.”

Last week, Mr. Boehner lost a vote on how to fund the federal government, sending Congress into its third shutdown showdown in the past six months.

His problem was the same as in the previous spending battles: roughly 50 of the most conservative Republicans who mutinied in the name of deeper spending cuts.

But Mr. Boehner may have strengthened his hand in the fight by persuading his fractious team to rally around his leadership.

That a resolution now hinges on action in the Senate is a sign that Mr. Boehner is in stronger position politically than he was a week ago — that he can now sometimes harness the power of his majority, despite nine months of often chaotic rule.



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