Less than a day after the House voted down a spending bill that would keep the federal government open past the end of the month, Speaker John Boehner vowed Thursday that Congress would avert a government shutdown. But it was clear he wasn't exactly sure how.
At a short briefing with journalists on Capitol Hill, Boehner, a Ohio Republican, also blamed House Democrats for the continuing resolution's defeat in a 195 to 230 vote. And his grievance against Democrats came despite 48 Republicans, many associated with the Tea Party, having also voted against the $1.043 trillion temporary spending bill.
"Listen, there's no threat of government shutdown. Let's just get that out there. The continuing resolution was designed to be a bipartisan bill and we had every reason to believe that our counterparts across the aisle would support it.
"And once they began to see where some of our votes were, they began to play politics and vote against disaster relief for millions of Americans. We're going to speak with our members later today and present some options and decide on a way forward."
The spending bill contained $3.6 billion in emergency disaster relief funding which Republicans wanted to offset partly with $1 billion in cuts to a program that underwrites greener auto technology. House Democrats opposed those cuts, however, saying they would result in reduced auto industry employment.
Republicans who voted against the spending bill did so because it was set at a higher level than that in a spending proposal made earlier in the year by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Committee chairman.
The outcome of Wednesday's vote clearly caught the House's GOP leadership off guard. Coming after other important votes which had delivered similar surprises, Boehner was asked if it wasn't yet one more piece of evidence that he didn't really have control of his Republicans.
"... I've always believed in allowing the House to work its will. I understood what the risks were yesterday. But why not put the bill on the floor and let the members speak? And they did."
Boehner and his leadership committee found themselves in a tight spot following Wednesday's vote. House Democrats clearly were almost unanimous in their opposition to the spending bill favored by the House GOP.
If the House's Republican leaders decided to make more cuts to attract the votes of those GOP lawmakers who voted Wednesday against the spending bill, they might be able to pass the bill in the House but it would likely face resistance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) the Senate majority leader, didn't draw any lines in the sand Thursday though he said the House should tie the continuing spending resolution to FEMA disaster spending.
He merely asked that the House approve something and forward it on to the Senate. Speaking on the Senate floor he said:
"If they disagree with what we did here, they have over there on the House side our bill which we passed here on a bipartisan basis. If they don't like that, send us back something else. We think that the overwhelming support of the nation is for something that we did. But don't tie it to the CR, that's simply not the right thing to do.
"We're going to be alert and wait for the House to act. We're really at an impasse here not because of what we're doing but because of what they're doing."
Congress was scheduled to be in recess next week in observance of the Jewish Rosh Hashanah holiday. But the failure to pass the spending bill put in doubt when exactly Congress would be able to start its break.
House members were put on notice Thursday that they could be working over the weekend.