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 PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk 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 on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address 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 SmithWhat if scientists, not politicians, called the shots on climate policy GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech 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 MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Artist designs stamp to put Harriet Tubman's face over Jackson's on bills On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers MORE on Tuesday, Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersTrump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties Exclusive: Carson seeks to clean up testimony on protections for homeless transgender people MORE (D-Calif.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump Tillerson told lawmakers Putin was more prepared than Trump for meeting: report Tillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee 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