So here we are today.
Funding for the federal government runs out at the end of the month and Congress is set to adjourn for recess at the end of the week. That means the House and Senate have to come to terms in a matter of days over legislation to keep the lights on.
There's just one problem: they disagree about how much to re-up FEMA's disaster fund. House Republicans want to provide FEMA with $1 billion in emergency funds (fully offset by cutting a program to incentivize the production of hybrid vehicles) and $2.65 billion as a down payment of sorts on FEMA's annual disaster funding. The Senate passed stand-alone legislation last week to provide FEMA nearly $7 billion.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that when the House sends the funding bill to the Senate, "we will amend it with the language of the Senate FEMA legislation." Last week, the Senate passed its funding bill, with some Republican support. Those Republicans are going to have to decide, again, whether to help out the country and the states some of them represent, or support the nihilistic leadership in the House, which seems perfectly willing to shut down the government over this few billion dollars. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor thinks that Americans will blame Reid if that shutdown happens. Somehow, I'm not thinking that's how it's going to play out, if the Dems hold firm.
So far, it looks like that's what they intend to do. House Democrats appear ready to withhold their votes for a funding package that couples disaster relief with partisan budget cuts. At least that's what Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is saying.
If Democrats vote against the funding bill en masse, it could leave House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) shy of the votes needed to pass the legislation, and force him to cut a deal on the Democrats' terms. Because if the impasse isn't bridged by the end of the month, the government will shut down.
"My presumption is they will offer a [funding bill] which has that offset in it and I think Democrats will be loath to support that effort," Hoyer told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing.
This is a showdown the Democrats should not shy away from. Republicans definitely have a bad history with government shutdowns, a memory many of them still carry. And shutting the government down over helping people in tornado and hurricane ravaged areas? That's a definite loser for the GOP.