WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Wednesday defeated a stopgap measure to keep the government open past October 1 amid a fierce dispute over disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The surprise 195-230 vote was a shock setback for Republican House leaders, who had sought to overrun Democratic objections to offsetting the funds by cutting about $1.5 billion from a program to build high-tech automobiles.
But 48 Republicans, close to the Tea Party that fiercely opposes government spending, chose to side with all but six Democrats to defeat the measure, which would have kept the government running through November 18.
It was unclear how lawmakers would proceed as they seek a way to avert a standoff that could trigger a government shutdown in the wake of the damaging debt-limit fight that led to a downgrade of Washington’s debt rating.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, warning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is poised to run out of money in just days, has called for nearly $7 billion in disaster aid, including an immediate injection of more than half a billion dollars.
The proposal from House Republicans included roughly $3.65 billion in disaster aid, including $1 billion in monies for the fiscal year that runs through September 30.
With many Republicans hailing from East Coast states hit hard by Irene, or from wildfire-ravaged Texas, House leaders were expected to face pressure to accommodate Democrats they need to pass the legislation.
The US Congress is scheduled to leave Friday for a week-long break that could now be endangered by the impasse.