With the sting of the 35-day partial government shutdown still smarting, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are proposing bills that would either prevent future shutdowns, or make their financial impact felt by lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, seemed receptive to the idea of a legislative fix.
“I don’t like shutdowns, I don’t think they work for anybody, and I hope they will be avoided,” McConnell told reporters, according to NBC News. “There’s some difference about how to craft that, but I’m certainly open to it.”
Senate Democratic leadership also expressed a willingness to tackle the issue. However, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said they would look at that legislation after February 15 — the current deadline to come up with a deal on border security (with or without President Donald Trump’s desired border wall) before the government shuts down again.
Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, has proposed the End Government Shutdowns Act, which has been co-sponsored by 19 other Republican senators, would provide “continuing appropriations to prevent a government shutdown if any appropriations measure for a fiscal year has not been enacted or a joint resolution making continuing appropriations is not in effect after the fiscal year begins.”
Democratic lawmakers, however, are skeptical of that idea.
“While well-intentioned, automatic continuing resolutions would weaken Congress’ power of the purse, shift power to the president, and make it much harder to fund investments important to working families,” Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat from New York told NBC News. “Discretionary spending should be subject to annual review by Congress, not indefinite autopilot.”
In the House, there are several plans in the works.
Freshman Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat serving the 10th Congressional District of Virginia, proposed House Resolution 79, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Government shutdowns are detrimental to the Nation and should not occur.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, is also working on an amendment that would address shutdowns.
“I like the legislation that if we do not fund government, members don’t get paid,” he told NBC News. “I think that ends the whole question.”
He’s not the only one, twelve freshmen Democrats introduced similar legislation that would block pay for Congress and senior members of the executive branch in the event of a government shutdown.
“It transfers the responsibility and the pain for a government shutdown that we saw so many of our workers endure to the folks that are actually the decision makers,” one of the bills’ co-sponsors, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, said to NBC News.
Additionally, lawmakers in the House introduced legislation to help federal workers — including a bill to give a pay raise to federal employees.
The most recent government shutdown, which began on December 22 and ended on January 25, was the longest shutdown in modern history. It took a toll on federal employees — 420,000 of whom had to work without pay — US airports, dinged the economy (which will not recover $3 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office), and national parks. And it hurt Trump politically, with more Americans blaming him for the shutdown than Congressional Democrats.
Still, the possibility for another shutdown is hanging over legislators’ heads. On Wednesday, a group of 17 lawmakers is set to meet and try to reach a deal on border security before the current stopgap funding runs out mid-February.
As Sen. Schumer alluded, any legislation that does address future government shutdowns will probably not happen until after the current negotiations over border security is over.