Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced legislation aimed at preventing last-minute budget deals that fail to address our out-of-control spending, as well as aimed at ending the threat to cut off essential federal government services. The End Government Shutdowns Act creates an automatic continuing resolution (CR) for any regular appropriations bill, lessening the chance of last-minute, budget-busting bills being forced through against the threat of a government shutdown.
"Despite repeated signs that Washington's out-of-control spending threatens to bankrupt the country, Washington continues to be deadlocked about the budget debate. Although Congress continually fails to pass appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, Americans should not have the threat of a government shutdown hanging over their heads," said Portman. "Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington's fiscal house back in order."
"Threatening to shut down the government every few months undermines our economy, creates uncertainty, and hurts working families and small businesses," said Tester. "This bipartisan bill will force Congress to make responsible decisions about getting our debt and deficit under control and without putting our nation's economy at risk."
Since 1997, Congress has failed to pass its regular appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, which has caused rushed budget agreements, the threat of government shutdowns, and unpredictability for government agencies and the people who rely on them. In 2011, Congress barely reached a midnight-hour agreement to avoid full government shutdown.
The End Government Shutdowns Act creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed by October 1. After the first 120 days, CR funding would be reduced by 1 percentage point, and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days. Similar to H.R. 3583, authored by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) in the last Congress, this bill gives Congress until January until the first automatic cuts would occur, rather than implementing them on October 1.
The End Government Shutdowns Act addresses a number of critical issues:
No more government shutdowns to create chaos for citizens who depend on federal services.
Less unpredictability for government agencies, which will be able to plan their budgets based on a default appropriations level.
Reduced pressure for haphazard, last-minute budget deals that lawmakers are asked to vote on before they have even read them.
Lawmakers will have until January to complete the appropriations bills before funding levels change.
After 120 days, the gradual decline in funding levels will ensure that lawmakers and the White House continue working toward an agreement.
All discretionary spending is treated equally. There are no exceptions for liberal or conservative spending priorities. This will keep both sides eager to reach a final agreement in order to preserve their respective priorities.
Portman and Tester introduced the bipartisan End Government Shutdowns Act (S.3434) in the last Congress, and they were joined by 20 cosponsors.