Ending weeks of political brinkmanship, Congress finessed a dispute over disaster aid tonight and advanced legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown this weekend. The breakthrough came hours after the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated it had enough money for disaster relief efforts through Friday. That disclosure allowed lawmakers to jettison a $1 billion replenishment that had been included in the measure—and to crack the gridlock it had caused.
Senate passage of the legislation was expected within hours. There was no immediate comment from House Republican leaders, although their agreement seemed a formality after the party's Senate leader signed off. The events assured there would be no interruption in assistance in areas battered by disasters such as Hurricane Irene and last summer's tornados in Joplin, Mo., and also that the government would be able to run normally when the new budget year begins on Saturday. The agreement also spelled the end to the latest in a string of political standoffs between Democrats and Republicans over deficits, spending and taxes that have rattled financial markets and coincided with polls showing congressional approval ratings at historically low levels. (Read more FEMA stories.)