Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Government Shutdown Averted: Why Did Congress Get This Close?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Government Shutdown Averted: Why Did Congress Get This Close?

Article excerpt

The Republican determination not to increase the deficit - even for disaster funding - brought Congress within a week of a government shutdown. In the end, FEMA had enough money to get by.

In a surprise move, the Senate reached a deal Monday that will likely avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and paves the way for funding the government through Nov. 18.

The breakthrough came when Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada informed senators that, contrary to its previous estimates, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had enough money to get through the end of the week.

FEMA funding for the final week of fiscal year 2011, which ends Friday, had been the main obstacle dividing House and Senate lawmakers in their efforts to reach a deal to stave off a government shutdown Saturday. Republicans had wanted any FEMA overruns in this fiscal year to be offset by budget cuts in FY 2012. But most Democrats had rejected this plan.

A shutdown appeared likely until Monday's announcement defused the issue.

"It shows us the way out," Reid told senators just before the Monday vote. "Let's fight when there's something to fight about. There's nothing to fight about tonight."

The Senate passed the spending bill, 79 to 12, but with the House in recess and out of Washington, some procedural hurdles remain. To make the Oct. 1 deadline, the House can hold a voice vote in a pro forma session this week - a move that would not require all House members to return to Washington.

But that will extend the government-shutdown deadline only to Oct. 4. To fund government through Nov. 18 will require a vote of the full House when it returns next week. Reports suggest that House leaders are already throwing their support behind the bill.

As to why FEMA revised its estimates Monday, officials said the FY 2011 numbers have been a moving target. Last week, FEMA officials said they expected funds to run out by Tuesday. …

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