WASHINGTON – Just a week away from a possible government shutdown, lawmakers boxed themselves into a new budget impasse Friday.
With Congress’ approval ratings already at an all-time low, a tit-for-tat over disaster aid left Republicans and Democrats – and the House and Senate – in a face-off that’s familiar to Americans.
Deep partisan disputes pushed the government to the edge of a partial shutdown in April, and to the brink of a debt ceiling crisis in July.
On Friday, the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked a Republican House bill that would provide stopgap federal spending, plus aid for people battered by hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The legislation also calls for $1.6 billion in spending cuts to help defray the disaster costs.
Democrats say it’s unprecedented and unfair to require spending cuts to accompany badly needed emergency aid. They are especially unhappy that the GOP measure would tap clean-energy programs credited with creating jobs.
Republicans say that with a $14 trillion-plus national debt, business-as-usual spending is no longer acceptable.
With elections coming, congressional Republicans suggest voters will find it outrageous that Democrats wouldn’t accept a mere $1.6 billion in spending cuts.
Democrats are betting voters will find it petty and manipulative to let tornado and hurricane victims wonder if federal aid will be denied because lawmakers want to cut aid to automakers.