GOP likely to prevail on limiting disaster aid; expect to avert shutdown

Failure of the amendment would likely clear a path for Senate passage of the House-passed continuing resolution.

Republican Senate leaders are likely to prevail in defeating an amendment adding billions of dollars in disaster aid to a federal funding bill set for House passage, making prospects of a government shutdown unlikely, leadership aides in both parties and a key senator predicted on Tuesday.

The Senate GOP leaders are pushing wavering Republicans to oppose a disaster funding amendment that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to offer on Wednesday, several GOP Senate aides said.

Failure of the amendment would likely clear a path for Senate passage of the House-passed continuing resolution that funds federal agencies through Nov. 18, scuttling the possibility of another last-minute showdown, with a government shutdown looming if the chambers fail to pass the same bill. The vote also serves as a minor political battering ram that Democrats are using to accuse the GOP of insensitivity to disaster victims.

The House is set on Wednesday to pass a continuing resolution that contains $3.65 billion to replenish a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid fund. Reid called the amount inadequate, and said he will offer an amendment attaching $6.9 billion in FEMA funding that the Senate approved last week. The Senate bill does not offset the funding.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that the GOP-run House could not pass the bill if the Senate adds the amendment.

The House's failure to back the bill would leave Congress without a continuing resolution that both chambers can approve, although lawmakers would have the option of staying in session next week, when they are currently scheduled to be recessed, to work on a deal.

The heat was being turned up on 10 Senate Republicans who last week voted with Democrats, in a narrow 62-37 vote, to support the funding without offsets. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., missed that vote and will support Democrats on the amendment.

Those Republicans need "to put aside petty politics" and "stand up for their states," Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., told reporters.

But Democratic and GOP aides said they expected pressure from GOP leaders would cause four or more of those Republicans to vote against the amendment to prevent Reid from winning 60 votes, although the vote will be tight. One Democratic leadership aide said that his party leaders do not expect to win the vote, but they want to make the GOP pay a political price for killing the amendment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sounded confident on Tuesday, flatly responding "no" when asked whether there is any chance of another government shutdown. McConnell predicted the Senate will complete its work on Thursday night.

Reid, however, citing McConnell's remark, said he was not as certain. "We're not gonna cave on this," he said.