The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives supported a continuing resolution bill that would have extended funding to keep the federal government running until November 18th. But the measure was unexpectedly defeated by a vote of 195 in favor and 230 against, with 48 Republican members rebelling against their leaders.
Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter of New York explained that, just like last April, the House and the Senate have failed to pass appropriation bills to fund the various departments of the federal government, and are now coming up against a deadline of September 30th for current funding to end, which would force a partial government shutdown if action is not taken before that date.
"In a few days the fiscal year will end, and without a stopgap measure, funding for essential government services will run out," she said.
Leading Republicans in the Republican-controlled House called for passage of the temporary funding measure, saying it is line with the cuts to government spending agreed on by both houses of Congress and President Barack Obama to avert a default on the nation's debt in early August. Republican Congressman Rob Wooddall of Georgia urges lawmakers to pass the measure.
"Consider this continuing resolution, that for just really one and a half short months, through November 18th, will extend the operations of the government," he said.
But the continuing resolution included what some Democrats referred to as a poison pill, which caused 189 Democrats to vote against it, and only 6 Democrats to vote for it. Democrats were furious over a provision in the bill that said federal funding for disaster relief must be offset by cuts in government spending elsewhere. A number of Democrats listed a number of major disasters that have hit the United States over the past couple of weeks, including raging wildfires in Texas, a hurricane and tropical storms that caused major flooding along the East Coast.
Democratic Minority leader Nancy Pelosi asked why Americans who have lost everything in a disaster should worry about whether their government will help them in their time of need, when the Congress has passed plenty of other bills without stipulating that they be paid for by cuts in the budget elsewhere.
"We never paid for the tax cuts for rich, they never were paid for,' she said. "We never paid for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they were never paid for."
House Republicans wanted to cut by $1.5 billion a program subsidizing the development of more fuel-efficient cars to offset the cost of funding emergency relief programs. Democrats rejected this proposal, saying the program for green cars created jobs, at a time of soaring national unemployment.
Some Republican lawmakers, especially Tea Party supporters, said they would vote against the bill because they want deeper cuts to government spending than those agreed on in the August debt ceiling showdown.
Now, House leaders will have to start over with a new bill. Lawmakers from both parties in both the House and the Senate were hoping to quickly pass a measure to fund the government because they plan to be in recess next week, when current funding expires.
Public opinion polls show that voters are tired of repeated episodes of partisan showdowns leading to the brink of a government shutdown, or a default on the nation's debt. But it looks like Americans could be in for more budget drama.