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

Senate Republicans are growing concerned that rising tensions between President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data 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 LoweyNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Overnight Defense: House Dems offer M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump's border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility  Defense spending bill would make Pentagon return unspent money taken for border wall 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 BraunClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal 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 SchumerTrump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? Pompeo: US 'certainly looking at' ban on Chinese social media apps like TikTok Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide 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 LeahySenate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests 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 WarnerSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown 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 PortmanRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Second Republican senator says he'll skip GOP convention Grassley won't attend GOP convention amid coronavirus uptick 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 GrassleyClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump says GOP 'flexible' on convention plans Overnight Defense: House Dems offer M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump's border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility  MORE (Iowa), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHealth care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (Mont.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziChamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection Trump, GOP clash over new round of checks Democrats detail their .5T green infrastructure plan MORE (Wyo.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation MORE (Wyo.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischRepublicans start bracing for shutdown fight in run-up to election GOP's Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst Democrat Paulette Jordan to face incumbent Jim Risch in Idaho Senate race MORE (Idaho), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Senate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections MORE (Utah) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police 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.