September 23, 2011The House voted early Friday 219-203 to pass a continuing resolution that funds the government through Nov. 18, setting up a battle with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The vote replenishes a nearly-empty Federal Emergency Management Agency account and includes $100 million in savings from a program that guaranteed a loan to Solyndra, the now bankrupt energy firm.
The development mean that the Congress will almost certainly work through the weekend to prevent FEMA from depleting its funds.
Senate Democrats had said they decided at a Thursday night caucus meeting that they would vote down a continuing resolution that emerges from the House without significant changes from a version voted on Wednesday.
"It's pretty unanimous in the Democratic Caucus that we're not gonna support their" version of the bill, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark, said.
House Republicans found the path to passage for a short-term bill to fund the federal government by adding language intended to embarrass the Obama administration.
Following a lengthy closed-door meeting, House Republicans emerged with a strategy to keep intact the continuing resolution the House defeated on Wednesday by adding a $100 million offset targeting the government program involved in the loan guarantees awarded to the failed energy company Solyndra, the solar-energy firm backed by more than $500 million in government loan guarantees and previously supported by President Obama. The company has since declared bankruptcy and is the focus of a federal investigation.
The inclusion of the Solyndra language sent a clear message that Republicans seek to pass the CR with Republican votes, instead of softening the original bill to get House Democrats on board. Some 48 Republicans voted against the CR on Wednesday, and all but six Democrats voted against it.
House Republicans largely voted against the bill because the overall $1.043 trillion CR price tag exceeded Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's, R-Wis., blueprint passed by the House early this year. But House GOP leadership aides were confident those conservatives would be mollified with the inclusion of the Solyndra language. A vote was on track for Thursday evening.
The move is politically motivated since the Energy Department program through which Solyndra received a loan guarantee is going to expire Sept. 30. Under the Recovery Act that Obama signed in February 2009, Congress created the program and gave it a sunset date of Sept. 30, since the the program was aimed at short-term economic recovery.
When the stimulus package passed, lawmakers appropriated $6 billion for the program. But since then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has peeled away more than half of that for other, unrelated purposes, including funding the successful "Cash for Clunkers" program and aid for states. The program was left with $2.4 billion in appropriated funds. The Energy Department uses the money to provide insurance in case a renewable-energy company receiving a loan guarantee fails, as Solyndra did. Citing proprietary reasons, the government doesn't disclose how much insurance it provides each company that receives a loan guarantee, so it is unclear how much of that $2.4 billion remains.
By taking money from the renewable-energy loan guarantee program, Republicans are forcing Democrats to choose between two of their clean-energy priorities. "House Republicans seem to be asking Democrats to pick their poison on a funding source for the offsets," said Salo Zelermyer, who was in the Energy Department's general counsel office during the George W. Bush administration. "If they don't want it to come from the vehicle-loan program, will Democrats also vote down a CR to defend funding for a loan-guarantee program that has taken significant heat in recent days?"
September 23, 2011