Lawmakers push to end shutdowns — for good

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are exploring legislative options that would prevent a repeat of the record 35-day shutdown, and their proposed solutions are drawing interest and support from top congressional leaders.

Members of both parties have introduced bills that would automatically fund the government at existing levels if lawmakers can’t meet statutory budget deadlines.

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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAs coronavirus surges, Trump tries to dismantle healthcare for millions Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Pelosi plans legislation to limit pardons, commutations after Roger Stone move MORE (D-Calif.) reportedly expressed interest in the idea during a columnist roundtable shortly before the shutdown ended Friday, while Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) endorsed the approach at a news conference in Manhattan.

“Now that the shutdown is over, we should roll up our sleeves and make sure it never happens again,” Schumer said, according to Newsday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySupreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention McCarthy calls NY requests for Trump tax returns political MORE (R-Calif.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he not only supported the legislative proposals out there, he said he would “go further.”

“You want to know how you’ll never have a shutdown again? Let’s not pay the members of Congress and Senate,” McCarthy said.

The push comes as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report Monday that the shutdown cost the U.S. economy an estimated $11 billion, with $3 billion expected to be permanently lost even after workers receive back pay and services return to normal.

Senators in both parties first pushed the shutdown-prevention idea earlier this month, before the government fully reopened.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (D-Va.) introduced the Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years Act, dubbed the Stop Stupidity Act, which would automatically keep the federal government running at the same funding levels as the previous fiscal year if a spending deadline is missed. The measure would withhold funding for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President in an attempt to motivate lawmakers to negotiate.

Another proposal, from Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ohio), would automatically fund the government at existing levels if lawmakers don’t reach an agreement on time. But funding would be reduced by 1 percent after 120 days and again every subsequent 90 days if lawmakers haven’t reached a deal.

While Portman introduced the bill in previous years, both he and Warner are trying to seize newfound momentum following the recent spending impasse that shuttered about 25 percent of the government.

“Let’s do something about it now while the pain and inefficiency of this moment is fresh on our minds,” Portman said on Friday.

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Funding for agencies affected by the partial government shutdown will lapse again on Feb. 16 unless a new spending agreement is reached. Both Portman and Warner are pushing to include a provision to end future shutdowns in any final funding deal.

“If there’s any good that can come from this shutdown, let’s make sure this is the last time a president is able to shut down the government as a negotiating tactic,” Warner said on the Senate floor Friday. “The final deal should include language that eliminates the practice of shutting down the government.”

But there’s a question of whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE would sign legislation into law that prevents future shutdowns, since doing so would remove some of the power and leverage wielded by the White House when it comes to spending negotiations.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders neither endorsed nor rejected the proposals during a Monday press briefing.

“I’m not going to get into the hypotheticals of taking that off the table,” she told reporters. “I haven’t seen a piece of legislation for us to even consider at this point that would make that a reality.”

Not all congressional leaders are on board with the idea either.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Md.), who represents a district with thousands of federal workers, has concerns about how such legislation might affect lawmakers’ incentives to enact appropriations on time if automatic funding would kick in regardless.

“He would want to make sure all of the implications were understood before moving forward on any of the proposals,” Hoyer spokeswoman Mariel Saez said.

There are also some conservatives wary of authorizing future automatic government spending.

Several House Republicans voted against legislation this month that granted back pay to federal workers affected by the shutdown. Those conservatives, including Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieBiggs, Massie call on Trump to remove troops from Afghanistan Massie wins House GOP primary despite Trump call to be ousted from party Rep. Massie called out by primary opponent for previous display of Confederate flag MORE (R-Ky.), had concerns about the impact of a provision in the bill automatically granting back pay after all future shutdowns.

“Congressman Massie is not a fan of putting the government on autopilot,” spokeswoman Laura Lington said.

While many other lawmakers support the idea of legislatively preventing future shutdowns, Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyBlack Caucus rallies behind Meeks for Foreign Affairs gavel Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe House committee chair requests immediate briefing on Secret Service's involvement in clearing protesters MORE (D-Va.) said he doesn’t endorse the provision proposed by Warner to withhold funding for members of Congress, their staffs and the president’s office, even though he supports the underlying bill.

“While I understand the thought and sentiment behind it, I don’t think any good comes from defunding any part of the government,” Connolly, whose Northern Virginia district is home to thousands of federal workers, told The Hill. “I do not support efforts to deny Congress its funding. I think no good comes from that.”

Connolly is also the author of a bill set for a House floor vote this week to ensure a pay increase for federal civilian workers equal to the 2.6 percent raise allotted for members of the military. Trump had announced a civilian workforce pay freeze for 2019 in late December after the shutdown began.

Connolly is pushing for both the civilian workforce pay parity and shutdown prevention measures to be included in any final funding deal. He said he hopes the shutdown helps provide momentum for efforts to help federal workers as conferees begin meeting this week to try to hash out a long-term deal, whether it be pay parity or simply not missing out on paychecks.

“I think there’s a renewed sense of appreciation for public servants and what they do for us,” Connolly said.