Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the bill.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the bill. John Minchillo/AP

Senate Republicans Hatch Plan to Prevent Future Shutdowns

Legislation introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and eight other Republicans would institute automatic continuing resolutions if Congress cannot pass spending bills on time.

A group of nine Republican senators has an idea to avoid government shutdowns in the future: remove the concept of a shutdown from the appropriations process.

The End Government Shutdowns Act (S. 104), introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and eight of his Republican colleagues last week, would stipulate that in the event that Congress fails to approve a spending package before a funding deadline, an automatic continuing resolution at current spending levels would take effect.

The concept of the federal government shutting down if funds are not appropriated to agencies is a relatively recent one, arising during the Carter administration. Major shutdowns occurred during the Clinton and Obama administrations, which lasted 21 and 16 days, respectively. Since President Trump took office, there have been three shutdowns, including the current partial shutdown, which became the longest in U.S. history over the weekend.

In a statement, Portman said that shutdowns are not only disruptive for federal workers and the citizenry they serve, but they are a waste of money.

“Shutdowns inevitably cost taxpayers more money once the government reopens,” Portman said. “[Moving] forward, we should end government shutdowns for good. This legislation will accomplish that goal, providing lawmakers with more time to reach a responsible resolution to budget negotiations, giving federal workers and their families more stability, and ensuring we avoid disruptions that ultimately hurt our economy, taxpayers and working families.”

Although the measure would reduce the urgency of lawmakers reaching accord on how to fund the federal government, Portman said he hopes that provisions of the bill will provide incentives for Congress to pass full appropriations bills, rather than allow automatic continuing resolutions to run indefinitely. Although funding under an automatic CR would run at current levels for 120 days, after that point, agency funding would drop by 1 percent every 90 days until the president signs a new spending bill into law.

Joining Portman in sponsoring the bill are Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

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