WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are being urged to vote against a bill on Wednesday to continue funding the government, putting it one step closer to a shutdown next week.
"I expect a great majority of Democrats to be voting no on the [continuing resolution] today," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters after a meeting with his caucus.
Full Democratic opposition could mean the bill will not have enough support to pass the House. If they lose all Democratic support, Republican leaders can only spare 24 votes from their party to retain a majority sufficient to pass the bill. But 51 Republicans, Led by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), said in a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last week that they want further cuts to discretionary funding as part of the continuing resolution, signaling the bill may not receive full support from GOP members.
Leaders in the House and Senate have been sparring over the inclusion of emergency disaster aid in the continuing budget resolution, which must be passed by Sept. 30 to prevent a government shutdown. House Republicans insist funding for disaster aid should be included in the continuing resolution and be offset by cutting an energy loan program.
The minority whip's office urged Democrats to vote against the bill, saying cuts to the energy loan program, called the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, could cost thousands of jobs.
"This is a dangerous cut that will affect American jobs and another example of the Republicans' inability to compromise, and the continuation of their no jobs agenda," the Whip email read. "Members are urged to VOTE NO on H.R. 2608."
Hoyer plans to vote against the bill, he said on Wednesday.
"Clearly, a [continuing resolution] needs to pass," Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. "But again, it doesn't need to pass with this in it."
Democrats have a long-shot plan in place to pass a continuing resolution without cutting the energy loan program, sources told The Huffington Post. Before the House takes up the continuing resolution, lawmakers must first adopt a rule to take up the bill. After an hour-long debate, the Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) will make a motion to stop the House from moving to a full vote on the continuing resolution.
If Democrats are successful, they will gain control of the floor and will have one shot to make amendments to the continuing resolution.
Democrats will then substitute the Senate version of disaster relief emergency funding, which passed with some Republican support last week, Democratic sources said. The practical effect of this measure will be to eliminate the need for spending offsets for disaster relief, allowing the loan program to the auto industry to remain intact.
It may be a tough feat, but Democratic Hill sources point to a letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that has now attracted more than 100 signatures. The letter urges Republican leadership to drop the cuts to the energy loan program.
But even if the Democrats' maneuver fails, Republicans will have to drum up sufficient support to get the bill to pass the House. If the House fails to pass a bill, the fight over disaster aid offsets could extend to next week, when the House and Senate are scheduled for a week-long recess.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) drew a firm line on Tuesday against cuts to offset disaster aid funding, saying his caucus would be willing to stay in town next week to fight for a continuing resolution with more aid, without cuts to job-creating programs.
Senate Democrats plan to to amend the House version of the continuing resolution, if it comes to them, to include a measure passed by the Senate last week that would fund disaster relief without offsets.
Reid said a government shutdown may be possible, because Democrats will not hedge on the issue of offsets for disaster funding.
"I'm actually not that sure," Reid said of avoiding a shutdown, "because the Tea Party-driven House of Representatives has been so unreasonable in the past."