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The Week Ahead in Congress

September 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] refused to let the Senate vote that day on his amendment to the House spending bill. Republican and Democratic leaders needed the weekend to cool off a little bit and then work through this," he said. “There is a compromise here.” According to the Washington Post, however, the two sides made “no progress” over the weekend. So now here we are, with the government set to shut down in five days and FEMA about to run out of disaster relief funds tomorrow, but still with no agreement on how to pass the spending bill.

The issue, you’ll recall, is that House Republicans want to offset relief funding to help victims of natural disasters with cuts to programs that are popular with Democrats. The Democrats don’t want to offset the disaster funding because they are afraid it would set a precedent that future Congress’ would have to follow. Disaster relief funding is traditionally not offset with program cuts. If that precedent gets set, it could make it harder for Congress to get disaster relief funding to victims quickly during future emergencies.

The Senate this afternoon will vote on a motion to move forward with the Reid amendment to the House bill, which would eliminate the offsets. He’s counting on winning the votes of 10 Republicans who voted just two weeks ago in favor of replenishing FEMA’s funding without any offsets. If he does retain those votes and the motion passes, the bill will be sent back to the House, which is on vacation and would have to be called back into session to vote. If the vote fails, Reid would have a few options to choose between: try to whip Democrats in line to pass the House bill including the offsets, find a new compromise with Republicans to pass a revised amendment, or give up and let the government shut down for now.

That’s the only game in town this week. The House is already gone on vacation, and the Senate is going to join them as soon as this is resolved (or not resolved and the government shuts down). Here’s the official Senate schedule:

Senate Floor Schedule for Monday, September 26, 2011

Convenes: 3:30pm

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will be in a period of morning business until 4:30pm with Senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each.

Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to concur in the House message to accompany H.R.2608 with an amendment, which is a 6-week continuing resolution with the time until 5:30pm equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees.

The filing deadline for second degree amendments to the motion to concur in the House message to accompany H.R.2608 is at 5:00pm on Monday.

The next roll call vote will be at 5:30pm on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to concur in the House message to accompany H.R.2608 with an amendment.

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