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With Only Days before Federal Funding Expires, Lankford Leads Push to End Government Shutdowns, Hold Congress Accountable

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today were joined by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Braun (R-IN), Rick Scott (R-FL), Steve Daines (R-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) to reintroduce the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act of 2021, which would take government shutdowns off the table by setting up an automatic continuing resolution (CR) if government funding has not been enacted on time and requiring Congress to stay in town until the job is done.

“As our national debt climbs dangerously higher and Congress continues to ignore the tough spending decisions, forcing Congress to stay in DC until the budget work is done is the most effective way to get Congress to actually get the government funded on time,” said Lankford. “Shutdowns cost taxpayer dollars, hurt federal employees and their families, and threaten our national security. Oklahomans expect Congress to do their job, keep the federal government functioning, prevent overspending, and be held accountable for doing what they’re supposed to do. I will push to see serious consideration of our practical and commonsense solution to shut down the shutdowns.” 

“Government shutdowns are costly and avoidable, and our bipartisan bill would help ensure that the government remains open until Congress can come together and agree on a spending bill,” said Hassan. “Our commonsense legislation will hold lawmakers accountable by requiring them to stay in Washington until they reach an agreement. I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect taxpayers by ending harmful government shutdowns.”

“The American people and federal workers shouldn’t be punished when Congress fails to do its job,” said Ernst. “This bipartisan effort will end costly government shutdowns that burden Iowa taxpayers and our economy, and will require members of Congress to remain in Washington until the work is completed.”

“Government shutdowns are inefficient and come at an enormous cost to American taxpayers,” said Johnson. “In Wisconsin, if the governor and state legislature can’t pass the budget, we don’t shut down the state government, we just spend at last year’s level. The Prevent Government Shutdowns Act would enforce the same discipline at the federal level. It is a common sense piece of legislation that should’ve been passed and implemented a long time ago.”

“Congress has not done its job of passing and adhering to a real budget in decades,” said Braun. “The House and Senate need to be held accountable for failing their most basic duty, that’s why I support Senator Lankford’s Prevent Government Shutdowns Act, which would require Congress to stay in town to finish the job they signed up for.”

“The most basic duty of Congress is to responsibly appropriate taxpayer dollars, but Washington has continued to cut corners, pile debt on American families and think only of its own short-term interests. America’s credit card is maxed out and it’s time for accountability,” said R. Scott. “Our brave men and women in uniform, who put their lives on the line every day, should not have their paychecks held because Congress wants to play political games. Congress’ dysfunction is harming hardworking Americans which is unacceptable—this is why we must pass the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act.”

“It’s not rocket science–Congress needs to do its job and fund the government,” said Daines. “Shutdowns don’t work. They waste taxpayer dollars, place undue burdens on federal employees and leave the US more vulnerable to adversaries. Hardworking Montanans shouldn’t pay the price of Washington DC’s failures. We must put an end to reckless government shutdowns for good.”

“The American people sent us here to do a job – and when we allow partisan brinksmanship to shut down the government, we aren’t doing that job,” said King. “Government shutdowns have significant impacts on people and communities across the country, affecting key federal departments and the contractors they work with, slowing our economy, and putting working families in limbo. It’s clear that something needs to change, and I’m proud to back a bipartisan bill that would keep the government open, and keep Congress in session until we reach an agreement.”

“The constant threat of shutdowns is just more proof that our budget process is terribly broken,” said Sasse. “We don’t have to pinball from one crisis to the next. Our legislation is smart policy that stops these stupid, Washington-driven crises before they happen.”

“Louisianans are recovering in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, and the last thing we need is for the government to shut down and not be in a position to help those trying to recover,” said Cassidy. “This is a commonsense solution to make sure our government continues functioning.”

The Prevent Government Shutdowns Act is supported by the following groups: Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Conservative Union.

Upon a lapse in government funding, the bill would implement an automatic CR, on rolling 14-day periods, based on the most current spending levels enacted in the previous fiscal year. This would prevent a shutdown and continue critical services and operations.

During the covered period of an automatic CR, the following restrictions are put in place:

  • No taxpayer-funded travel allowances for official business (except one flight to return to Washington, DC) for the following:
    • White House OMB staff and leadership
    • Members of the House and Senate
    • Committee and personal staff of the House and Senate
  • No official funds may be used for CODEL or STAFFDEL travel
  • No use of campaign funds by congressional offices to supplement official duties or travel expenses
  • No motions to recess or adjourn in the House/Senate for a period or more than 23 hours

In addition, under the bill, no other votes would be in order in the House and Senate unless they pertain to passage of the appropriations bills or mandatory quorum calls in the Senate. However, after 30 days under the automatic CR, certain expiring authorization bills and executive calendar nominations would be eligible for consideration on the Senate floor, including a nomination for a Justice of the Supreme Court or a Cabinet Secretary, and narrow reauthorization legislation for programs operating under an authorization that has already expired or will expire within the next 30 days.

These restrictions can be waived by a two-thirds vote in either chamber but not for longer than seven days. Additionally, the bill provides for expedited consideration of bipartisan funding bills if appropriations have not been enacted after 30 days after the start of the fiscal year. This further incentivizes Congress to process bipartisan spending bills and fund the government on time. Lastly, the bill ensures Congress is not under floor and travel restrictions after they get the job done and are awaiting the president’s signature. However, if the president vetoes any funding bills, the restrictions on congressional travel and floor consideration are re-imposed.

Although federal funding runs out on September 30, Congress has failed to enact any of the 12 annual appropriations bills, which once again means we face a possible government shutdown or another CR that fails to take into account what we actually need as a nation.

Introduced initially in February 2019, the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act requires that if appropriations work is not done on time, all Members of Congress must stay in Washington, DC, and work until the spending bills are completed. This will prevent a government-wide shut down, continue critical services and operations for Americans, and hold federal workers harmless while Congress finishes its job. 

After beating the drum on this important move to end government shutdowns, in December 2020 Lankford gave an eerily familiar address on the Senate floor to once again press for his solution to take government shutdowns off the table as Congress was edging closer to another government shutdown. Lankford and Hassan also penned an op-ed in The Hill to show their colleagues why this is an issue that must be addressed.