Senate panel passes law to prevent shutdowns as spending crisis looms

Fiscal cliff (Photo by MrIncredible/Shutterstock) 

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee advanced a bill June 19 designed to impose negative consequences both on members of Congress and the administration in the event of a government shutdown.

The bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) puts the government into an automatic continuing resolution in the event of a lapse in appropriations legislation. Additionally, the bill curtails executive branch and legislative travel and requires lawmakers to focus on funding efforts and not any other legislation except in the event of an emergency.

At the business meeting, lawmakers sought to alter the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act to carve out more exceptions to the no travel provision to support senior defense officials and diplomats. However, the bill advanced on the promise from the sponsors that the sought-after exceptions would be clarified in subsequent versions of the bill.

"Preventing travel and holding mandatory roll call votes will keep negotiators at the table while the automatic funding mechanism would ensure federal employees are paid," Lankford said in a statement. "Any legislator who truly wants to end the drama of needless government shutdown brinksmanship should support this bill."

Movement on the bill comes as lawmakers are in the midst of negotiations to agree to lift statutory budget caps as a prelude to passing appropriations bills. The spending conversation is complicated by a need to pass a debt ceiling increase to permit the government to borrow in excess of current legal limits.

Mandatory caps in place would require $55 billion in cuts to domestic spending and $71 billion in defense cuts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on June 20 that such sequestration is "off the table" as far as the administration is concerned.

"We are prepared to do a one-year [continuing resolution] with a one-year debt ceiling [extension]," Mnuchin said. "The president has every intention of keeping the government open."

In a June 20 press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "We all know that we want to avoid a sequestration, that we want to avoid a continuing resolution, but we have to meet the needs of the American people in a way that is reflected in an appropriations bill."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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