Disaster Aid Fight Looms; Government Shut Down Threatened

Sep 26, 2011, 10:22 by R.E. Christian

With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, the U.S. Congress takes up a short-term spending measure to avert a government shutdown.

The Democratic-led Senate, which blocked a Republican House measure to fund the federal government through Nov. 18, will vote Monday on its version of the bill, The Washington Post reported.

The government would shut down if a stop-gap funding measure isn't passed and signed into law Friday, the end of the current fiscal year.

The Senate bill includes money for disaster relief without offsetting spending cuts that House Republicans demand.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday leaders have spoken, but other aides reported no progress toward a compromise during the weekend, the Post said.

Congressional members speaking Sunday on television talk shows showed little signs they'd back off their parties' positions concerning disaster relief and offsets.

"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 have 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 R. Warner, D-Va., said on CNN's "State of the Union," blaming the clash on Tea Party-affiliated House Republicans who demanded the spending cut.

On the same program, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said, "Everybody knows we're going to pay for every single penny of disaster aid that the president declares and that FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] certifies. And the House sent over a bill that does that and the Senate should have approved it."

Alexander blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for creating a crisis over FEMA funding.

Both senators, who have pushed for more bipartisan cooperation over the more difficult task of deficit reduction, said the current stand-off was wearying.

Warner said it was "embarrassing" while Alexander said he didn't like finger-pointing "over such small potatoes."

People in northeastern Pennsylvania, recovering from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, were discouraged by word that FEMA's disaster relief fund was running out of money, The New York Times reported.

"Members of Congress are playing with people's lives, not just their own political careers," said Martin Bonifanti, chief of the Lake Winola volunteer fire company. "While they are rattling on among themselves down there in Washington, people are suffering."

Source: UPI