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Shutdown Showdown Continues: Senate Has Key Vote Today

We warned last week that a second "shutdown showdown" was looming in Washington.

And, sure enough, as the new week begins lawmakers in Washington are still at odds over how to put some more money into the coffers of the stretched-thin Federal Emergency Management Agency. And if the dispute isn't settled by the end of the week, part of the federal government might be forced to shut down.

The Associated Press writes that:

"At issue is a small part of the $1.3 trillion budget intended for an infrequent purpose: federal dollars to help victims of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters and whether some of the expense should be offset by cuts in other government spending. ...

"On Friday, the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked the House bill that would provide stop-gap federal spending, plus aid for people battered by a spate of natural disasters. The legislation also calls for $1.6 billion in spending cuts to help defray the disaster costs.

"The House, meanwhile, left town for a weeklong recess and the Jewish holidays. ...

"Democrats complained that it's unprecedented and unfair to insist that spending cuts accompany badly needed emergency aid. ... Republicans say that with a $14 trillion-plus national debt, voters will find it outrageous that Democrats wouldn't accept $1.6 billion in spending cuts."

Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a Senate vote for later today on the Democrats' plan. Politico says that "if he falls short Monday evening, Reid will be faced with a crucial decision: Either allow the Senate to pass a House Republican stopgap budget bill that Democrats blocked on Friday, or try to forge a new way forward that could peel off enough Senate GOP support and force the House to return from recess to pass their plan."

According to The Washington Post, "is not clear how the dispute will be resolved. A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that leaders have been in touch, but other congressional aides said there was no progress toward a compromise over the weekend. And members of Congress who appeared on Sunday talk shows gave little sign that they would move quickly from their parties' positions on disaster relief."

On Morning Edition, NPR's Cokie Roberts said that leaders of both parties have vowed there won't be any shutdown. "But what neither party still seems to get," she said, is "how their actions are affecting the bigger picture" and are creating uncertainty that's a drag on an already weak economy.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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