Start the government shutdown clock

Senate Democrats told House Republicans in no uncertain terms: if you approve the spending bill that plays games to emergency disaster, it will fail. With a pressing deadline, wasting time on a partisan ploy is pointless.

GOP leaders pressed their luck anyway and passed their little stunt overnight, daring Dems to defeat it. They did.

The Senate voted Friday morning to reject the House’s stopgap spending bill, less than twelve hours after the House’s Republican leaders had forced it through on their second try.

The Senate vote was 59 to 36 to table the House bill, effectively killing it. Some conservative Republicans joined in rejecting the measure.

The plan may change, but as I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will amend the House version, pass it, and then send it back to the lower chamber. Specifically, the “fix” will be to increase the funding for disaster aid and remove the offset targeting clean-energy programs. That vote will apparently come Monday.

Whether the House will be there to consider the bill is unclear. Remember, both chambers are scheduled to be out next week. It was key to Speaker Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “jamming” strategy — he’d pass the bill he liked and then leave town. The message to the Senate wasn’t exactly subtle: pass the spending measure my way or the government will shut down.

As one senior House Republican aide put it, “There is no other option than for the Senate to pass our bill. That’s it. That’s all. There is no next step.”

Remember when Boehner decried “my way or the highway” thinking last week? Apparently, he’s forgotten it. Indeed, his caucus also seems to have forgotten there’s another chamber, led by a different party, that’s not in the mood to pay another GOP ransom.

It’s important to keep one key detail in mind. House Republican leaders are saying this afternoon that their bill is important to provide aid to disaster victims, and it’s Dems who are standing in the way. That’s dishonest garbage — Senate Dems already approved more FEMA aid, with bipartisan support, and pleaded with the House GOP not to play games with the funding. Republicans, playing the role of ill-tempered children, couldn’t help themselves.

To put it mildly, the clock is ticking. Not only is the deadline for a government shutdown one week away, but FEMA will run out of funding, apparently as early as Monday — three days from today.

There will be talks over the weekend to try to resolve the differences. House Republican members are still threatening to leave town today, apparently unwilling to do their jobs.