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WASHINGTON DIGEST: Another shutdown crisis brewing

WASHINGTON — Congress failed last week to approve a stop-gap spending bill, once again raising the threat of a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Friday .

The Senate rejected a House-approved bill that would temporarily fund the federal government through Nov. 18 while adding $3.65 billion to Federal Emergency Management Administration accounts drained by a severe season of hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

In dispute was a House Republican provision to require the additional disaster aid be paid for by cutting $1.5 billion from "green job" initiatives, including programs for fuel-efficient cars and solar energy. The Senate had approved its own bill to add $6.9 billion in disaster aid without including offsets.

"We should not have to kill jobs to provide disaster relief to people who need it," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The Senate voted 59-36 to reject the House bill. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted for the bill. Reid opposed it.

The House and Senate had planned to be in recess this week for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.

But after rejecting the House bill, Reid said the Senate would return Monday to vote on a temporary spending bill that includes the House-approved $3.65 billion for disaster relief but none of the offsets.

In the House, Republican leaders needed two tries to pass their bill. The initial proposal was rejected 230-195 after 48 Republicans who wanted deeper spending cuts voted against it. All but six Democrats also voted against it.

Reps. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Mark Amodei, R-Nev., voted for the bill. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted against it.

A day later, House leaders cut another $100 million from a solar energy program. The change attracted enough backing to win passage on the second try, 219-203.

Heck and Amodei voted for the second bill. Berkley opposed it.


The House approved a bill by Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., to restrain environmental and emission regulations for coal-fired power plants.

The bill would establish a panel of federal officials to analyze the cumulative effect that proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules would have on economic competitiveness, employment and the cost of electricity.

The Obama administration has threatened a veto, claiming the bill would block implementation of air toxics rules that are needed to protect the public health.

Sullivan said it makes sense to know what impact regulations would have on the economy at a time when people are struggling.

"I firmly believe the American people deserve an honest accounting of how much the Obama administration’s energy and environmental regulations are costing our economy," he said.

Democrats said the bill was aimed at demonizing the EPA and dismantling government regulation intended to protect public health and the environment.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., noted that coal-fired power plants emit tons of mercury emissions each year that eventually end up in the nation’s waterways, including a lake near his family’s homestead in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

"My grandfather could pass by and say to my grandmother, I’m going down to the lake and catch some fish — and be guaranteed that that was going to be the case — and bring it back home in short time. Now that lake is dead, and it’s because of mercury contamination that that lake is dead," Hastings said.

The House voted, 249-169, to approve the bill. Heck and Amodei voted for it. Berkley voted against it.

Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban@stephensmedia.com or at 202-783-1760.

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