Politics

Reid "Cautiously Optimistic" No Government Shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who on Tuesday said he was unsure whether a government shutdown was imminent, has had a change of heart. "I'm cautiously optimistic - we're going to be ok," Reid told reporters Thursday, adding, "Magic occurs on Thursday night."

True enough. Lawmakers usually find a way to work out their differences when they are pushed up against a week-long recess, as they are this week. Next week is a scheduled break for Rosh Hashanah.  The government runs out of operating money on September 30, but because of the break, members are considering an earlier pre-recess deadline. 

What caused this change of heart for Reid, though, besides the "magic"?

The defeat the House GOP leadership suffered Wednesday night on the stopgap government funding bill, calling a Continuing Resolution (CR). 

Reid appeared to reveal a compromise that could break the current logjam, which was caused by a difference over how to fund disaster relief. The House had tried to attach $3.7 billion for FEMA to their CR, but it's now unclear if that money will remain in the bill. As well, Democrats balked at GOP efforts to offset that money with a cut to a green automobile program. 

When asked if he would oppose a House stopgap measure stripped clean of the offset, Reid said, "If they got rid of the pay-for, we'll take a look."

Meanwhile, FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, nearly broke, is scheduled to run out of money by Tuesday.  But it is unclear if House and Senate lawmakers can reach an agreement. 

Reid called on the House to remove disaster aid from their CR and pass, separately, the Senate's $6.9 billion bill, with no offsets.  But GOP support has eroded from that bill this week. 

Ten Republicans supported the larger amount just last week, but many have either changed their mind or are undecided on whether or not they would do so, again. Two of those Republicans, Marco Rubio of Florida and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, have ruled out voting for the larger number.  Two others, Maine's Susan Collins and Roy Blunt of Missouri, remain undecided as they look into what the House will do and how Congress can pass a significant enough amount by year's end.