This was a vote on a motion to table (kill) legislation (known as a “continuing resolution,” or “CR”) that would have kept the federal government agencies and programs operating through November 18, 2011, and would have paid for disaster assistance for states affected by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene in part by cutting $1.5 billion from a program that guarantees loans for the manufacturing of fuel efficient vehicles.
The federal government was scheduled to run out of money and shut down on October 1. This vote took place on September 23. Democrats opposed this bill—which had passed the House of Representatives--because it paid for assistance for victims of natural disasters by cutting funding for the loan guarantee program described above. [The Senate had already passed a $7 billion disaster relief package, but the House had taken no action on that measure. This House-passed bill provided only $3.65 billion for disaster aid.]
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) argued: “…This year we have seen a terrible string of natural disasters that have shut down businesses and left families homeless across America. As chair of the Agriculture Committee, I am certainly very concerned about the flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and the record droughts that have devastated the livelihoods of men and women who grow our food across America. In response to that, the Senate, on a strong bipartisan basis, responded to provide the funding for FEMA to help with communities across America, 48 States, to be able to respond and be able to do what we always do as Americans--to be able to step forward and work together and meet these kinds of natural disasters and the help that is needed. We sent that to the House. The House decided, on the other hand, that they not only would lower the funding amount, even though we know that means multiple times now having to keep churning to work something out, but they have cut the amount. Then they added to it an effort to cut in half a public-private sector effort [the fuel-efficient vehicle loan guarantee program] that is creating jobs. I know people in Michigan and people across the country would be scratching their heads, saying, Wait a minute. Did I hear this right? We are stepping forward to help families who had their house wiped out or their business wiped out or their farm wiped out or some other horrendous challenge because of natural disasters. In order to help them, the House Republicans are saying we have to cut jobs. That makes absolutely no sense.”
No Senate Republicans spoke on the bill. During debate on this bill in the House, however, Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) argued: “The question we're debating tonight is not whether we give aid and assistance to those of our neighbors that have been hit by serious disasters. We all agree that's the appropriate thing to do. The question is do we cut spending elsewhere to pay for that assistance. Now, what our friends on the left have told us is, look, that's not the way we've done it in the past. In fact, we've always done it by just going ahead and spending without any offset. Doing it the way we've always done it has put us $14 trillion in debt. What we have to do is exactly what the people of Monroe County, Mississippi did on the night of April 26. Those families had dreams. They had hopes; they had plans. And on April 27, the tornados hit and their plans changed, and they redirected their spending plans to take care of the disaster. Now, if the families in Monroe County, Mississippi have done that, they have every reason to expect their government to do the same thing. Now, we've been told, But we need some government program to create jobs. If we will give the American people the assurance that their government is serious about cutting spending like this bill does, we'll give them the confidence to create jobs. If we remove the regulatory burdens, American businesses will create jobs. And if we give them the assurance that we're not going to raise their taxes, the American economy will thrive and create jobs.”
The Senate tabled (killed) this bill by a vote of 59-36. 52 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted “yea.” 35 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected legislation that would have kept federal government agencies and programs operating through November 18, 2011, and would have paid for disaster assistance for states affected by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene by cutting $1.5 billion from a program that guarantees loans for the manufacturing of fuel efficient vehicles. Following the rejection of this bill, congressional leaders reached an agreement on legislation to prevent the government from shutting down and provide funding for disaster relief. That bill provided $2.65 billion for disaster relief, and cut no funding from the loan guarantee program.