Portman pushes bill to end shutdowns

Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Portman ad features father of fallen Iraq soldier Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables MORE (R-Ohio) on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at ending the threat of a government shutdown once and for all.

The bill would automatically extend government spending at current levels for 120 days when funding expires. If Congress continues to fail to act, spending would be cut by 1 percent across the board every 90 days.

“Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington’s fiscal house back in order,” Portman said in a statement.

The triggered cuts could give fiscal hawks a negotiating advantage, since simply failing to reach a deal would reduce spending by default. 

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"The bill gives opponents of discretionary spending a victory every time they successfully filibuster appropriations bills since it guarantees more cuts in spending," a Democratic aide said.

The measure is supported by Democratic Sen. Jon TesterJon TesterElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (D-Mont.) and could boost Portman’s image as a bipartisan deal-maker. Portman is considered a top contender to be presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney's running mate.

A shutdown battle consumed Washington in April 2011 when President Obama, Senate Democrats and the new House GOP majority could not agree on a level of spending for a fiscal year that was already half complete.

A deal was reached to keep the government funded, but the battle bruised the image of both parties.

Congress regularly fails to complete spending bills by the Oct. 1 deadline, and this year is bound to be no exception. A short-term funding bill will likely be needed to keep the government open.

Portman's bill is a departure from the tactics of the GOP House in the 1990s, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich actively sought shutdown scenarios to try to cut government spending. 

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— This story was updated at 2:40 p.m.