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House gears up for another disaster aid vote

The U.S. House is gearing up for another vote -- perhaps as early as late Thursday evening -- to fund in the federal government in the short-term. The move failed unexpectedly Wednesday over a disagreement on disaster relief funding.

Congress takes a break next week, and funding for the government would run out at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

South Florida Congress members voted with their parties Wednesday: Republicans voted for the House GOP leadership's proposal, and Democrats voted against it. But the measure collapsed because enough Republicans opposed the measure, saying it did not cut enough from elsewhere in the budget to fund disaster aid.

The House had proposed $3.65 billion in disaster relief spending, offset by other cuts. Last week, the Democratic-controlled Senate signed off on $6.9 billion, without offsets.

Of the 10 GOP senators who favored that measure last week, a few -- including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- have indicated they would favor the House's position.

"Unfortunately, we didn't have the votes," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said Thursday. "I thought that was a relatively good compromise."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said she feared the delay to provide disaster relief could send a message that the federal government won't help victims of flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

"We didn't get hit this time as much as other states, did but our day will come again, just like it did during [Hurricane] Andrew," Ros-Lehtinen said. "And we've got to help other states just like we want them to help us when we're in dire straits.

"I'm optimistic that after the dust settles we can get back ot working together in a bipartisan manner and help people hwo need the disaster aid and find ways to fund it," she added.

On hold while Congress figures out how much funding to provide FEMA are $66 million worth of projects in Florida -- including money for buildings of the Miami-Dade Public Health Trust and the South Broward Hospital District, as well as drainage and road improvement and repair projects in Miami-Dade County.

Some of the projects date from as far back as 2004, when a rash of storms -- Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne -- swept through Florida. FEMA is still paying for some long-term recovery projects.