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Monday September 26, 2011 | 01:13 PM

(Update: GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine both voted with just one other Republican – Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts - for a failed motion to end debate on the Senate Democrats’ version of the disaster relief funding bill, and then joined 22 other Republicans to vote for the final funding compromise deal that was approved.

But Snowe charged that what was on display in Washington Monday was “an utter lack of understanding what the American people want Congress to achieve. Mainers are tired of the unending partisan crises that threaten to shut down our government,” Snowe said.

Snowe added that, “The House and Senate must resolve their differences and I call on the leaders of all sides to continue working out their disagreements so we can move past these self-inflicted stalemates and focus on creating an economy that will put unemployed Americans back to work.”

Collins said via email that, “I am pleased that an agreement has been reached that avoids a government shutdown, and provides FEMA with critical funding.  The American people have made it clear that they want us to work together to resolve differences and focus on improving our economy to create an environment that will help businesses create jobs.”)

(Original item below)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has set a 5:30 p.m. vote today on a bill funding federal disaster relief efforts and keeping the government operating through Nov. 18, but GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine have not yet said how they will vote.

It’s possible, however, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has enough funding to last through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, which reportedly could defuse yet another budget standoff and potential government shutdown.

There has been a standoff between the GOP controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate over how much money to spend on disaster relief and whether to cut other spending to make up for the disaster relief funding.

Senate Democrats - with help from key Republicans from states hit by recent storms and flooding, including Collins and Snowe - were able to push through approved a $6.9 billion disaster relief bill that did not cut spending elsewhere and included about $800 million for the final days of the 2011 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

House Republicans have passed a $3.65 billion bill that includes $1 billion for the final days of the fiscal year and cuts $1.5 billion from a program encouraging automakers to develop fuel-efficient cars and $100 million the from the Department of Energy’s assistance program for renewable energy firms such as the now bankrupt Solyndra solar firm in northern California that got a $535 million federal loan guarantee. The Senate on Friday rejected the House bill, but on that vote Collins and Snowe sided with most other Republicans against rejecting the House GOP measure.

Reid has scheduled a vote today on an alternate version to the House bill, one that contains the same $3.65 billion funding level but does not make cuts elsewhere to pay for the disaster relief funding.

Republicans say they don’t want to increase the deficit. Democrats say disaster relief funding traditionally has not been offset with other cuts, and argue that Republicans don’t ask for corresponding cuts when passing war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The impasse threatens to result in a federal government shutdown, because the disaster relief measure also is a temporary spending measure that keeps the federal government operating until Nov. 18, because Congress has not yet passed 2012 spending bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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