Fight over disaster aid prompts shutdown talk
WASHINGTON - Another government shutdown tempest is brewing that could hinge on how much Congress spends for disaster relief, and several Republicans who voted with Democrats last week - including Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts - are in the spotlight.
After July’s battle over the debt limit, many in Congress predicted a truce as the federal funding year ends and the need for budget resolutions arises. But yesterday House Republicans and Senate Democrats hardened their positions over how much disaster funding should be in the budget, with each warning that the other side was flirting with shutdown over the issue.
The fight centers on how much money to include for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a short-term budget bill to fund the government after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Such resolutions, passed when the regular budgeting process is incomplete, have become increasingly common.
The House is poised to vote on that stopgap budget, including about $3.6 billion in disaster relief funding, and send it to the Senate. But Democratic leaders there who voted for $6.9 billion for relief last week say that’s not enough and will try to amend the House bill.
Whether the bill will be changed depends on 10 Republicans, including Brown, who voted for the $6.9 billion last week and gave the bill its 62-37 filibuster-proof vote. Some of the 10 were noncommittal about whether they will vote the same way, but Brown was not.
“I voted for it twice already, so I’m going to vote for it again,’’ Brown said. “People need assistance, they’re hurting, and we should plan better for these types of things.’’
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he’s “not that sure’’ a shutdown is out of the question, blaming House Republicans.
House GOP leaders said their members would not support what the Senate wants, and majority leader Eric Cantor said if there is a shutdown, “it will be on leader Reid’s shoulders.’’ - THEO EMERY
Romney gets backing from Senator Roy Blunt
Influential Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri will lead Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s efforts to secure support from other members of Congress, the senator said yesterday.
Blunt, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, played a similar role in President George W. Bush’s successful 2000 campaign.
“Through his experience in the private sector and as governor, I believe Mitt has the right background to help create more economic certainty and spur job growth in Missouri and nationwide,’’ Blunt said.
So far, Romney has received endorsements from 15 members of Congress, most recently Arizona Representative Jeff Flake. Other senators who support Romney include Orrin Hatch of Utah and James Risch of Idaho.
Congressmen can connect a presidential candidate with activists in their home state and can act as surrogates, doing interviews and talking to potential supporters in their states. - SHIRA SCHOENBERG
GOP candidates blast Obama’s Mideast stance
NEW YORK - Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and their GOP presidential rivals slammed President Obama’s Middle East policies yesterday while declaring their support for Israel as the United Nations considered a bid for Palestinian statehood.
Perry, the Texas governor, denounced the president’s Israel policy as “misguided and dangerous,’’ speaking to supporters in New York as the Obama administration worked a few miles away to thwart a UN vote to grant formal recognition to the Palestinian Authority.
Perry also accused Obama of appeasement, as did Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. Former Massachusetts governor Romney issued a statement accusing Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus.’’
The Republican campaigns have similar goals: establish contrasts with Obama on an issue where he’s struggled; chip away at American Jews’ support for Democrats; and prove their pro-Israel bona fides with the evangelical voters who will play a significant role in the primaries.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama worked hard to reassure nervous Jewish voters that he would defend Israel as president. But he’s faced doubts and criticism since then.
Perry criticized Obama’s stated goal that any negotiations should be based on Israel’s borders before the 1967 Mideast war, with mutually agreed adjustments and land swaps. Perry, speaking to a group of ultraconservative Jewish and Israeli leaders, called that stance “insulting and naïve.’’
Romney said, “What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to undermine its negotiating position.’’ He called for an end to foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority if the UN vote went the Palestinians’ way. - ASSOCIATED PRESS