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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation 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 press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan 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 McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Fifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Watch live: McCarthy holds briefing with reporters 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 WarnerPanic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Schumer announces Senate-House deal on tax 'framework' for .5T package 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 PortmanMajor US port target of attempted cyber attack Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Officials urge Congress to consider fining companies that fail to report cyber incidents 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump 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 HoyerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol House Democrats set 'goal' to vote on infrastructure, social spending package next week Holding back on defensive systems for Israel could have dangerous consequences 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 MassieReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Kentucky GOP lawmaker deletes tweet comparing vaccine mandates to Holocaust 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 ConnollyHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing 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.