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Republicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election

Senate Republicans are growing concerned that rising tensions between President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (D-Calif.) could lead to a shutdown fight just weeks before the election and threaten their slim majority in the chamber. 

There is widespread anxiety among GOP senators that Trump’s penchant for picking fights is a political liability as his response to nationwide protests against police brutality appears to be the cause of his declining approval ratings.

Republicans are now worried that he’s likely to pick a fight with Pelosi in September over government funding for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

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Trump and Pelosi’s relationship has only gotten worse since the 35-day government shutdown at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. The president regularly refers to her as "Crazy Nancy," and last month Pelosi called him "morbidly obese."

GOP lawmakers say the last thing they need a few weeks before the Nov. 3 election is a spending standoff and possible government shutdown, especially with 23 Republican Senate seats up for reelection and only 12 Democratic seats at stake.

The Senate has yet to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills. In the House, Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOffice of Special Counsel widens Pompeo probe into Hatch Act violations  Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Top House Democrats call for watchdog probe into Pompeo's Jerusalem speech MORE (D-N.Y.) announced that she intends to hold all subcommittee and full committee markups the weeks of July 6 and July 13.

Some Senate Republicans are discussing moving legislation that would prevent a government shutdown even if the annual appropriations bills haven’t been passed. The GOP senators say they’ve gotten a commitment from GOP leaders for a vote in the coming weeks.

“There’s some of us that would like to get back on that,” Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change MORE (R-Ind.) said after Republicans discussed it at a recent lunch meeting. “It has to do with the general dysfunction that we have here.”

He said Thursday the goal is to “get something in place before” a shutdown scenario arises and “to have it there where you get rid of shutting down the government as a lever that can be used by whoever chooses to do it.”

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Braun added that there’s strong Republican support for the legislation, but it faces an uphill path to securing support from Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs MORE (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats who worry that automatically defaulting to long-term stopgap spending measures could take pressure off Congress to pass new spending bills every year.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has previously opposed legislation that would permanently enact appropriations if Congress failed to act or the president vetoed spending legislation.

Some moderate Democrats, however, have expressed support in the past for legislation to prevent future shutdowns.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference MORE (D-Va.) last year introduced the Stop Stupidity Act, which would renew government funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year, except for the legislative branch and the executive office of the president.

Braun said even if the legislation doesn’t become law, it would at least put Senate Republicans on record opposing a shutdown ahead of an anticipated fight over a stopgap spending measure to keep government agencies operating beyond Sept. 30. 

“If Schumer and/or Pelosi wants to keep that open as an option, I think it will be pretty easy to connect the dots on whose fault it would be if we ever have a government shutdown,” he said.

“To me it would be the biggest thing we could do to at least be able to hold a stronger bargaining position that the government can’t shut down,” he said.

There’s concern among Republicans over which party would get the blame for a shutdown only a few weeks before an election in which Democrats are seen as having a growing chance of capturing the Senate GOP majority.

GOP lawmakers felt burned after the 2018-2019 shutdown, which was provoked by a fight primarily between Trump and Democratic leaders over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio) and a group of Senate Republicans have proposed the End Government Shutdowns Act, which would set up an automatic continuing resolution for any regular appropriations bill or existing stopgap spending measure to keep “the federal government open when negotiations falter before key spending deadlines,” according to an official summary of the proposal. 

Braun said Republican senators hope to merge that with a measure he and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) sponsored — the No Budget, No Pay Act — that would require Congress to pass an annual budget and meet appropriations bill deadlines or forgo their own salaries until those goals are met. It passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year.

“At this point I think there’s going to be unanimity on just jumping on one,” he said, adding it was discussed by members of the Senate Republican Steering Committee among “those of us who want to pick something that we can all go arm-in-arm with.”

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GOP Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBarrett confirmation stokes Democrats' fears over ObamaCare On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes MORE (Iowa), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesGOP sees path to hold Senate majority Democrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race MORE (Mont.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBottom line Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Cynthia Lummis wins GOP Senate primary in Wyoming MORE (Wyo.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump signs bipartisan bill funding conservation grants  Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference MORE (Wyo.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque MORE (Idaho), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGeorgia Republican Drew Ferguson tests positive for COVID-19 Trump says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' White House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night MORE (Utah) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day MORE (Alaska) have co-sponsored Portman’s bill.

Lee confirmed that government shutdown prevention legislation was discussed at one of the Senate Republican Steering Committee’s recent lunches.

“I like it,” he said. “We’re co-sponsors of several iterations of that.”

“It’s always a concern,” Lee said of a potential shutdown fight in September. “That’s why we need reforms."

“I’d like to take that risk off the table,” he said.