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Senate blocks emergency disaster money
Even as senators were fighting over when to hold their next vote, the House finished business and left town, and with only abbreviated sessions scheduled for next week it limits chances for a compromise.
The disaster money fight is tied to a broader bill that would keep the government open into fiscal year 2012, which begins Oct. 1. Congress has not passed any of the dozen spending bills required to fund basic operations, and without a stop-gap bill much of the government would shut down after Sept. 30.
Both sides agreed to an overall 2012 funding number in last month’s debt deal, but the disaster money threatens to undercut the deficit limit they settled on.
Democrats said emergency disaster money has always been tacked onto the deficit.
“That is not right. That’s what this debate is about,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.
Democrats also objected to the specific clean-energy budget cuts House Republicans called for.
But Republicans said the deficit is so bad that it’s time to change the usual practice.
“The American people won’t accept that excuse any longer,” Mr. McConnell said.
Earlier in the day, standing with House GOP leaders, two freshmen Republicans from Pennsylvania, where floods have ousted people from their homes, pleaded for Mr. Reid to take up the House bill. They said at this point in the schedule it’s the only way to make sure FEMA continues to have money through next week.
“They can’t wait five days,” Rep. Lou Barletta said of his constituents. “We need help and we need it now.”
Mr. Barletta voted against the first version of the spending bill on Wednesday, arguing it had too little disaster money. But he voted for the version that passed early Friday, and he told reporters his leaders had assured him enough money would be allocated.
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