Bill would prohibit lawmakers, president from being paid if government shuts down

Boxer said she didn't know how much the bill would save and that amount would depend on the length of a shutdown. 

Lawmakers and the president are paid under a mandatory spending law rather than through the appropriations process, meaning they still get paid when the government shuts down. 

"So as far as we can tell, we're the only category of federal employees that have this protection," Boxer told reporters. 

During the government shutdown in 1995, Boxer pushed similar legislation through the Senate but "it mysteriously was dropped" from a spending bill for the District of Columbia during conference committee. 

This time around, Boxer said she intends to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Nev.) to bring the bill to the floor as a stand-alone measure "so that it goes over to the House without anything around it." 

"We are going to ask Sen. Reid to hotline this bill, to get it done," she said. "We might not have to even bring it up. We just want to get it through. And then we're going to put the spotlight on the House to take it up and pass it."

"I'd like to hear the argument against it," Casey added. 

Boxer called the threat of a government shutdown "real" as the divide widens between Democrats and Republicans on spending issues. 

House Republicans have proposed $61 billion in cuts to fiscal 2010 spending levels as part of the stopgap measure under consideration on the House floor that will keep the government running through March 4. 

That bill is expected to received a chilly reception from Senate Democrats who have said the cuts have been made with an axe rather than a scalpel. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerIt's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him How Republicans can bring order out of the GOP's chaos Republican donor sues GOP for fraud over ObamaCare repeal failure MORE (R-Ohio) said Thursday he won't pass even a short-term CR without any spending cuts. 

The House and Senate are expected to leave town Thursday for the weeklong Presidents Day recess, leaving them with about four days during the week of Feb. 28 to pass a bill that President Obama can sign, even if it's temporary. This is becoming an increasingly difficult task that will probably lead to some type of short-term solution while negotiations continue over cuts. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said talks are under way with House Appropriations leaders on a backup plan that would provide a reprieve from a government shutdown, but decisions aren't likely to be made until a bill reaches the Senate. 

"So a government shutdown is on the table," Boxer said. "It's been put on the table. Or put another way, it has not been taken off the table, which is what we want."

Late last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary MORE (R-Ky.) said Democrats were raising the specter of a shutdown.

Senate Republicans are likely to call for Democrats to bring a House-passed CR to the floor, although it's unlikely to get enough support to pass in the short period of time remaining before the expiration of the current law that is keeping the government running.