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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 PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.) reportedly expressed interest in the idea during a columnist roundtable shortly before the shutdown ended Friday.

 

The proposals:

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The snag: It's unclear if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report 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."

 

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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 SmithSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Democrats expand Senate map, putting GOP on defense 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 MnuchinMonumental economic challenges await Biden's Treasury secretary Biden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges MORE on Tuesday, Reps. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Maxine Waters says Biden win is 'dawn of a new progressive America' MORE (D-Calif.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Dozens of progressive groups endorse Joaquin Castro for Foreign Affairs chair 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.

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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