Calling for a weekend to “cool off,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set up a Monday vote on replenishing the almost-empty federal disaster relief accounts as all sides race to beat a deadline to keep money money flowing to disaster-stricken states and to keep the federal government at large running.
“Cool off a little bit. Work this through. There’s a compromise here,” Mr. Reid said Friday, minutes after the Senate blocked back a bill drafted by House Republicans that would have replenished the disaster fund accounts through Nov. 18.
Without an agreement, the government could shut down in a week, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency could run out of money even before then.
The House, on the strength of Republican votes, passed a bill early Friday morning that directs an additional $3.65 billion to FEMA, with some of the spending offset by cuts to a clean-energy program popular with Democrats and the Obama administration.
“Harry Reid is holding a bill up with full funding for what is needed right now for no reason — for no reason but for politics,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican. “This is why the people just don’t have the respect for this institution and this town anymore.”
But the Senate, led by Democrats and joined by some conservative Republicans, tabled that measure, 59-36.
Instead, Mr. Reid has called for a Monday vote on a new bill he wrote to accept the House-passed FEMA funding level, but to tack the additional spending onto the deficit rather than find cuts elsewhere.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republicans’ leader in the chamber, tried to speed the vote up to Friday afternoon, but Mr. Reid objected, saying he wanted the cooling-off period.
Senate Democrats also have a major campaign event to raise money from high-dollar donors at the luxurious Kiawah Island in South Carolina this weekend.
“The agency that rushes to help when disaster strikes will run out of money on Monday. I repeat, Monday,” he said Wednesday as he was pushing for quick action.
But by Friday he said he had been assured there was more time.
Still, the Senate’s delay could be costly.