Key Dem chairwoman opposes bill to automatically avoid shutdowns

Key Dem chairwoman opposes bill to automatically avoid shutdowns
© Greg Nash

The chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHillicon Valley: Trump officials to investigate French tax on tech giants | Fed chair raises concerns about Facebook's crypto project | FCC blocks part of San Francisco law on broadband competition | House members warn of disinformation 'battle' Lawmakers, experts see combating Russian disinformation as a 'battle' Top Democrats call for administration to rescind child migrant information sharing policy MORE (D-N.Y.), said Tuesday that she opposes legislation designed to prevent future shutdowns by automatically funding the government if lawmakers miss a deadline.

Members of both parties have introduced legislation that would let current funding levels automatically take effect if lawmakers can't agree to a spending deal on time. The idea has gained momentum in recent days after the record 35-day partial government shutdown.

But Lowey said that approach to effectively enact stopgap measures — known as continuing resolutions — in the face of gridlock risked diminishing lawmakers' authority over government spending decision.

"While well intentioned, automatic Continuing Resolutions would weaken Congress’ power of the purse, shift power to the President, and make it much harder to fund investments important to working families. Discretionary spending should be subject to annual review by Congress, not indefinite autopilot," Lowey said in a statement.

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“I intend to lead a House Appropriations Committee that will work in a bipartisan, collaborative way to responsibly fund the federal government on time. Together, we can prevent future government shutdowns without resorting to fundamental changes in the legislative process that bring with them serious unintended consequences," she added.

Lowey is a member of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee tasked with reaching a deal on border security funding by the next government spending deadline on Feb. 15.

The conference committee's first public meeting is slated for Wednesday.

Some lawmakers, including Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand On The Money: Fed chief warns of 'unthinkable' harm if debt ceiling breached | Powell basks in bipartisan praise amid Trump attacks | Federal deficit jumps to 7 billion Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks MORE (D-Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Hillicon Valley: Harris spikes in Google searches after debate clash with Biden | Second US city blocks facial recognition | Apple said to be moving Mac Pro production from US to China | Bipartisan Senate bill takes aim at 'deepfake' videos MORE (R-Ohio), are pushing to include their proposals to prevent government shutdowns in any final spending deal that emerges in the coming weeks.

Warner's bill would automatically fund the government at existing levels while withholding money for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President in an effort to motivate lawmakers to reach an agreement.

Portman's proposal, meanwhile, would start with existing funding levels, but then reduce it by 1 percent after 120 days and again after every subsequent 90 days if lawmakers still haven't reached a spending deal.

But opposition from Lowey and others will likely be a significant hurdle to including either of those proposals in a final deal.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOcasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump House Democrats introduce resolution condemning Trump for 'racist' comments Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity MORE (D-Md.), who represents thousands of Washington-area federal workers, is also skeptical of the idea.

"Frankly, I think a lot of Republicans would like to run government like that for the next 10 years. I'm not a subscriber of that. The Congress ought to do its job," Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. "I personally am reticent about automatic bills that, in effect, take Congress out of having to make decisions."

But other top congressional leaders, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have expressed interest in the proposals to prevent future shutdowns.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Democrats erupt over Trump attacks Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid MORE (R-Calif.) told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he not only supported the proposals to prevent future shutdowns, but would "go further" by withholding pay for members of Congress.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he's open to the proposal as well.

"I don't like shutdowns. I don't think they work for anybody and I hope they will be avoided. I'd be open to anything that we could agree on on a bipartisan basis that would make them pretty hard to occur again," McConnell told reporters less than a week after the last partial shutdown ended.

Beyond Warner and Portman, lawmakers in both parties have introduced a variety of proposals to prevent future shutdowns.

Rep. Lloyd SmuckerLloyd Kenneth SmuckerRising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems Lawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good How to keep government running when lawmakers fail to do their job MORE (R-Pa.) has introduced a bill similar to Portman's that would automatically keep government funded with a continuing resolution, but reduce discretionary spending by 2 percent every 60 days absent a deal.

A group of House Democratic freshmen also introduced legislation to automatically keep the government funded, but with other attempts to motivate lawmakers to negotiate. Their bill would prohibit the use of funds for lawmaker travel, require daily quorum calls, and suspend lawmaker pay for the duration of a shutdown.

Separately, a bipartisan trio of freshmen — Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Racial politics roil Democratic Party Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings MORE (R-Texas) and Max RoseMax RoseOcasio-Cortez sued over Twitter blocks The Hill's Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Progressives, centrists in open warfare after House caves on Trump border bill MORE (D-N.Y.) — introduced a bill on Tuesday to withhold pay for members of Congress, the president and vice president during a shutdown.

—Mike Lillis contributed reporting