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 LoweyBottom Line Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending On The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses 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 WarnerDems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Live video of New Zealand shooting puts tech on defensive The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP MORE (D-Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 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 HoyerHillicon Valley: Social media faces scrutiny after New Zealand attacks | YouTube removed 'tens of thousands' of shooting videos | DHS chief warns of state-backed cyber threats | House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality House to take up gender pay gap, Violence Against Women Act House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHistory teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment The politics and practicalities of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms 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 McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests 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 McConnellGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left 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 SmuckerLawmakers divided over how to end shutdowns for good How to keep government running when lawmakers fail to do their job Key Dem chairwoman opposes bill to automatically avoid shutdowns 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 CrenshawGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Senate GOP clash over Yemen, border security Crenshaw tries out Trump impersonation at Washington Press Club Foundation dinner MORE (R-Texas) and Max RoseMax RoseThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority House Dem vets press McConnell on emergency declaration House GOP secures last-minute change to gun 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