Shutdown looms as federal funding bill dies in House

As Congress wrestles to keep the government funded, a House GOP bill to extend federal funding until Nov. 18 went down to defeat 195-230 Wednesday night, in a dispute over money for disaster relief.

The bill's failure was a result of a combination of Democratic and conservative Republican opposition. It marks an embarrassing loss for House leaders, especially House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and a tactical victory for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. It also hands Democrats leverage to push the GOP to yield on disaster funding.

The vote also raises the odds of a government shutdown, but the chambers can either quickly work out a deal this week or stay in session through their planned recess ahead of the Oct. 1 start of fiscal year 2012, the deadline for a new CR.

The possibility that the House and Senate will delay their recess is more likely but hardly certain. The central sticking point is disaster relief funding. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has sought some $7 billion to refill the Federal Emergency Management Agency's coffers. Republicans are seeking lower levels of funding and want offsetting cuts.

Defeat of the continuing resolution means House GOP leaders must decide how to proceed to avert a shutdown. Democratic leaders in both chambers called for them to pass the bill with a full $7 billion in disaster funding without offsets.

House Republican leaders could still try and work out another package this week before Congress is scheduled to recess, but to do so they must convince 43 of their own members to come aboard. Six Democrats must vote against the measure, too.

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