Republican House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor were surprised by the failure of their bill to fund the government beyond next week.
The failed vote was not only an embarrassment for Republican leaders, who ended up nowhere near the 218 votes they needed to pass the bill, but it also eats into the small window of time left to avert a government shutdown. The House and Senate are scheduled to leave town on Friday for a week-long recess; unless that changes, they only have two days left to figure out a way forward.
The 230-195 vote wasn't even close. The main controversy with the bill was money to replenish FEMA's disaster relief fund. Republicans made funding of the FEMA disaster fund contingent on cuts to a fuel efficiency loan program.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D, AL-07) voted against the bill saying Americans shouldn't have to choose between jobs and and a helping hand when disaster strikes:
“While the Continuing Resolution includes critical disaster assistance for states and communities hit hard by recent natural disasters, it does so by setting a dangerous precedent, requiring the disaster aid to be offset by cutting funding to job-creating programs. This bill would have cost at least 10,000 hard-working Americans their jobs by cutting funding from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which is putting Americans to work producing cleaner cars right here in the United States.
The 7th Congressional District and the State of Alabama were hit hard by the severe storms and tornadoes of April 27, 2011. Many communities in the 7th Congressional District were ravaged by this historic outbreak of tornadoes. When disaster strikes, the Federal Government must act. We cannot waste valuable time searching for emergency funding while communities ravaged by disasters suffer. I cannot in good conscience vote for a bill that would jeopardize my constituents’ access to vital assistance in the wake of a disaster.”
Sewell said she looks forward to working on a Continuing Resolution that adequately funds disaster relief AND encourages job creation.
On the other hand, Mo Brooks (R, AL-05) has no problem pitting disaster relief against manufacturing jobs and actually threatened to vote against any bill that funds both:
Freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) voted “yes,” but said he might switch his vote the next time around if all $3.65 billion in disaster aid isn't offset. The current resolution offsets $1.5 billion; the rest is not offset and would be rolled into annual spending bills still being negotiated by the House and Senate.
“I might go from a 'yes' to a 'no' if we're not going to pay for these additional expenditures,” Brooks said of the disaster aid.
In fact, all the Alabama Republicans voted in favor of requiring cuts to the fuel efficiency program in exchange for funding disaster relief even though they were all eager for federal disaster help after tornadoes tore through Alabama on April 27th of this year. I remember watching Mo Brooks on TV after the storms saying he wanted North Alabama to get all the federal aid it was “entitled to.” Less than 5 months later he's carping about replenishing the disaster relief fund.
You can have jobs or you can have help when tornadoes strike, but our GOPpers want to make darned sure you can't have both.