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John Boehner: Government Shutdown Will Be Averted

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WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday there is no threat of a government shutdown, downplaying whispers that he cannot control his conference enough to pass a stopgap bill to fund the government.

"Trying to get 535 people to come to an agreement on anything around here is difficult," Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters. "But we knew that going in. We're working our way through this. I've always been confident we'll be able to come to an agreement, and we will."

Boehner's leadership ability was called into question Wednesday by a vote on the continuing resolution, which would fund the government from Oct. 1 to mid-November. The bill must be passed by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown, and the clock is ticking down as lawmakers prepare to leave on Friday for a week-long break.

The bill went down in a 195-to-230 vote, with 48 Republican members and nearly all Democrats opposed. But Boehner downplayed the bill's failure, saying it was part of the job.

"I have no fear in allowing the House to work its will," Boehner said. "I've long believed in it, and I continue to believe in it. Does it make my life more difficult? Yes, it does."

The failure of the bill means House leaders must go back to the drawing board, changing the bill to win more votes. Boehner declined to hint on how the bill will be changed, which could take the form of further cuts, changing the offsets for emergency disaster funding or eliminating offsets altogether.

The offsets are meant to pay for emergency disaster relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency by taking money from a loan program that brought manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Democrats have strongly opposed the offsets, arguing they should not be part of disaster aid and could impede job-creation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected the idea on Tuesday of using offsets for emergency aid funding.

Boehner is caught in the middle and must choose which way to move. Moving to the right might appease some conservative members, who called last week for additional cuts to the funding bill. But moving to the left, by switching or eliminating offsets, would win over Democrats, and has the added benefit of being more likely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Asked whether he would move to appease Democrats or conservative Republicans, Boehner laughed at the characterization that he was caught between a rock and a hard place.

"Welcome to my world," he said.

Boehner argued the failure of the bill was mostly the fault of Democrats, many of whom said they would support it before ultimately voting it down. The bill's funding levels were decided in a fight over raising the debt ceiling last month, which many hoped would make the current bill easy to pass.

"This 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," he said. "Once they began to see where some of our votes were, they decided to play politics and vote against disaster relief for millions of Americans who've been affected."

Boehner will huddle with his conference later on Thursday to discuss the way forward for the bill. He hinted that leaders hope to resolve the issue in the next two days, before a scheduled week-long recess next week.

"I surely hope" the House will not be in session this weekend, he said.

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