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 LoweyDemocrats advance more spending bills, defying Trump budget requests Congress reaches deal on disaster aid Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight 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 declassification move unnerves Democrats Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks MORE (D-Va.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse votes to boost retirement savings The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage 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 HoyerPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote House Democrats seek bipartisan working group on net neutrality Steyer plans impeachment push targeting Democrats over recess 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 PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk 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 McCarthyRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes 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 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval 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 CrenshawThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Behar clashes with Dan Crenshaw on Trump's Charlottesville comments Trump says New York Times should apologize for more than 'terrible Anti-Semitic Cartoon' MORE (R-Texas) and Max RoseMax RoseGOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates Republicans attempt to amend retirement savings bill to include anti-BDS language Hillicon Valley: Trump signs cybersecurity executive order | Facebook bans 'dangerous' figures | Dems slam tech's response to extremist content | Trump meets Foxconn CEO over Wisconsin factory plans 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