On The Money: Lawmakers look to end shutdowns for good | Dems press Mnuchin on Russia sanctions, debt limit | Trump budget delayed by shutdown

On The Money: Lawmakers look to end shutdowns for good | Dems press Mnuchin on Russia sanctions, debt limit | Trump budget delayed by shutdown

Happy Tuesday and welcome back to On The Money. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL-- Lawmakers push to end shutdowns -- for good: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are exploring legislative options that would prevent a repeat of the record 35-day shutdown, and their proposed solutions are drawing interest and support from top congressional leaders.

The push comes as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report Monday that the shutdown cost the U.S. economy an estimated $11 billion, with $3 billion expected to be permanently lost even after workers receive back pay and services return to normal.
Members of both parties have introduced bills that would automatically fund the government at existing levels if lawmakers can't meet statutory budget deadlines. The Hill's Cristina Marcos explains here
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Calif.) reportedly expressed interest in the idea during a columnist roundtable shortly before the shutdown ended Friday.

 

The proposals:

 

The snag: It's unclear if President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE would sign legislation into law that prevents future shutdowns, since doing so would remove some of the power and leverage wielded by the White House when it comes to spending negotiations.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders neither endorsed nor rejected the proposals during a Monday press briefing.

"I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals of taking that off the table," she told reporters. "I haven't seen a piece of legislation."

 

LEADING THE DAY

Dems push to include contractor back pay in any shutdown deal: A growing group of Democratic lawmakers is pushing for legislation that would provide back pay to low-wage government contractors, and they want their measure included in any final funding deal that's struck before a Feb. 15 deadline.

While about 800,000 federal workers are guaranteed to receive back pay for the 35-day shutdown that ended Friday, furloughed contractors don't have any statutory protections to recoup lost wages stemming from the shutdown. 

"The federal shutdown isn't over for thousands of businesses and their employees," said Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Ex-Bush ethics chief calls for Steve King expulsion after he posted meme of potential civil war The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison MORE (D-Minn.) on Tuesday, flanked by contract workers in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ union. "Contractors like these ones have never been made whole after any shutdown, and that needs to change." The Hill's Niv Elis tells us why. 

  • Many of the low-wage contractors are security guards, cleaners and food workers who provide services in federal buildings. After a shutdown, it's up to individual contracting companies to decide who gets paid, and the businesses that furloughed workers aren't being reimbursed for lost service during the shutdown.
  • "It really devastated my family," said Lila Johnson, who has worked as a sanitation worker at the Department of Agriculture for 21 years and ended up withdrawing funds from her life insurance policy.
  • De'von Russell, a security guard at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, said he was concerned about whether he would be able to keep his car as he worked to make rent, pay off credit card bills and support his family, including his 3-year-old daughter. "We're still in the hole. Who knows when we're going to get a decent paycheck?" he said.
  • Smith has introduced a bill that would allow certain types of contractors already defined in federal law to request payment from the government for their workers. Reimbursements would be capped at 200 percent of the poverty line, roughly $50,000 a year.

 

Dems demand records from Mnuchin on lifting sanctions for Deripaska-tied firms: Three top House Democrats have formally requested documents related to the Trump administration's decision to lift sanctions on companies connected to a prominent Russian oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Taxpayers slow to file as they grapple with tax law | Schiff says Dems to charge ahead with Trump probes | Feds charge Avenatti with trying to extort Nike | Yellen sees no recession in sight House Oversight Dem wants Trump to release taxes and 'get it over with' Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week MORE on Tuesday, Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersHouse committee chairs call for Mueller report to be released by April 2 On The Money: Taxpayers slow to file as they grapple with tax law | Schiff says Dems to charge ahead with Trump probes | Feds charge Avenatti with trying to extort Nike | Yellen sees no recession in sight Judd Gregg: Pelosi's olive branch...sort of MORE (D-Calif.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Barr faces political storm over Mueller report The Memo: Mueller findings boost Trump 2020 hopes MORE (D-Calif.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse committee chairs call for Mueller report to be released by April 2 Lessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC MORE (D-N.Y.) asked for documents pertaining to the administration's Sunday decision to remove three companies previously controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska from a list of sanctioned firms.

They described the terms of the agreement under which Treasury agreed to lift the sanctions as "unusual" and alleged that "many questions remain unanswered." The Hill's Morgan Chalfant fills us in here.

 

The background: The sanctions were initially imposed on the firms under a law aimed at punishing Russia for interfering in the 2016 election as a result of Deripaska's connections to Putin.

The administration announced in December that it would lift the sanctions on Deripaska's aluminum company, United Co. Rusal, as well as En+ Group plc and JSC EuroSibEnergo, after Deripaska agreed to reduce his ownership stake in each of the companies to below 50 percent.

 

GOOD TO KNOW 

 

ODDS AND ENDS