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 LoweyHouse votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November The Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution Two years after Maria, Puerto Rico awaits disaster funds 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 WarnerOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit MORE (D-Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation 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 HoyerDemocrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' News outlets choose their darlings, ignore others' voices Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul 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 PelosiBiden blasts Trump, demands he release transcript of call with foreign leader Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week 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 McCarthyClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Lawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe 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 McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' 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 CrenshawMissouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Can Carl DeMaio save the California GOP? Crenshaw-AOC battle puts spotlight on lending guns to a friend MORE (R-Texas) and Max RoseMax RoseDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet House Democrat urges Trump to address online extremism at UN 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