The Various Plans to Avert Future Government Shutdowns

Sens. Joni Ernst, left, and Rob Portman head to the Senate floor prior to a vote on ending the partial government shutdown Jan. 24.

Sens. Joni Ernst, left, and Rob Portman head to the Senate floor prior to a vote on ending the partial government shutdown Jan. 24. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Lawmakers have a lot of ideas to keep the government running, aside from passing spending bills on time.

In recent weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been brainstorming ways to end the practice of shutting down federal agencies if Congress cannot reach an agreement on how to fund them before a spending deadline hits.

Following the end of the 35-day partial government shutdown, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated cost $11 billion in economic activity and more than $3 billion in wages paid to furloughed employees to not work, members of Congress said they have had their fill of shutdown politics.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested he would be open to approving legislation to prevent future government shutdowns, provided the measure has bipartisan support. But in the House, Democratic leaders have been leery of the idea, fearful that it could serve as a backdoor way for Republicans to cut spending, the Daily Beast reported.

Still, bills from lawmakers in both parties attempting in different ways to keep agencies open if Congress misses a deadline to fund the government have piled up in recent days. They range from setting up potentially indefinite continuing resolutions to simply threatening to withhold congressional and White House salaries until negotiators reach a deal.

Here’s a guide to the various proposals, and how they seek to end the modern phenomenon of lapses in appropriations.

  • The End Government Shutdowns Act (S. 104): Introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and cosponsored by 26 other Republicans, this bill would institute an automatic continuing resolution if a spending deal has not been enacted in time to keep the government open. For the first 120 days, the CR would continue agencies’ funding at existing levels, but after that point, agency funding would drop by 1 percent every 90 days until the president signed a new spending bill into law.
  • The STOP STUPIDITY Act (S. 198): Introduced by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., this bill—formally called the Stop Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage in the Coming Years Act—would implement an automatic continuing resolution for all unfunded agencies that would run until the end of the current fiscal year, but it would revoke all funding for Congress, its associated agencies and offices, and for the Executive Office of the President, effectively forcing lawmakers and the president, and their staffs, to work without pay until a deal can be reached.
  • The End Shutdowns Act (S. 281): Introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Wednesday, this bill is similar to Warner’s legislation and also would stop the Senate from considering any legislation or other business until a spending deal is reached, rather than revoking funding for the legislative branch and the White House.
  • The Solidarity in Salary Act (H.R. 845): Introduced by Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine; Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; and Max Rose, D-N.Y., this legislation would withhold the salaries of lawmakers, the president and vice president during a lapse in appropriations. Withheld funds would be placed into an escrow account until the government reopens, at which point the money would be disbursed to the various officials.
  • The Inaction Has Consequences Act: Introduced by Rep. Rob Wittman, this bill simply would withhold the pay checks of members of Congress if they do not approve all regular appropriations bills by the end of a fiscal year. Under this legislation, lawmakers would still see their salaries withheld if Congress passes a continuing resolution as a stopgap measure to fund the government.
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