Sunday, September 25, 2011

HR 2608 Update – Continuing Resolution

HR 2608, the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, will continue to be considered in the Senate on Monday. Popular news reports on Friday that the Senate voted down the bill were not technically correct.

The Senate on Record

In an interesting parliamentary move, Sen. Reid (D,NV) allowed the Democrats to have a symbolic vote against the House approved version of the short term continuing resolution. The actual vote was on a motion to table a proposed amendment to the House version of the bill. The amendment was proposed by Sen. Reid and it made a minor technical change to the House language. So a vote in favor of the motion to table was politically, but not technically, a vote against HR 2608 as amended by the House.

The final tally was 59-36 (page S5922). This vote allowed Democrats (and a number of Republicans) to voice their displeasure with the House version without actually killing further consideration of the bill.

Next Move

Having established, for the record, that the Senate does not agree with the House, the Senate will next consider an amendment in the nature of a substitute to HR 2608 that was proposed by Sen. Reid. The language in Senate Amendment 656 (pages S5954-6) is essentially the same as HR 2608 except that it removes mention of the two ‘rescissions’ that House Republicans put in to off-set the increased FEMA emergency spending in the bill.

NOTE: SA 656 does include the same §130 extension of the CFATS authorization until November 18th that was found in the House version of the bill.

Debate will resume on the amendment to HR 2608 on Monday at 4:30 pm (EDT) with a vote on a cloture motion to begin at 5:30 pm and it could be a lengthy vote. Additional amendments to the bill may be subsequently considered. There is a 5:00 pm Monday filing deadline for such ‘secondary’ amendments.

If/when the Senate passes an amended version of HR 2608 it will have to go back to the House for approval. The House is currently scheduled for essentially pro forma sessions on Monday and Friday (though there are some tentatively scheduled Committee hearings), but that schedule could be changed relatively quickly.

For the vast majority of governmental operations Congress has until midnight Friday to complete work on this bill to avoid a possible shutdown. FEMA may (probably will) run out of money sooner because of the numerous and large-scale flooding events this year.

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