Congress is embroiled in a budget impasse that seems likely to force a government shutdown but a bipartisan group of senators think they have a better way
A bipartisan group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Angus King (I-Maine) thinks members of Congress should stay in the nation’s capital as long as it takes, without any days off, until the 2024 federal budget is completed.
Entitled the “Prevent Government Shutdowns Act” (PGSA) of 2023, the Lankford–Scott proposal was introduced in January to little fanfare, but is now getting attention because of the looming inability of Congress to come up with a spending plan that enough Democrats and Republicans support to become law.
The PGSA requires members of Congress and their staffs to stay on the job until the budget is agreed upon by the Senate and House of Representatives and sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The proposal is co-sponsored by senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
The proposal provides for a rolling series of 14-day periods following the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30 when the government runs of out appropriated funds. Members and staff would be required to remain on the job and could not work on any other legislation until the budget is finalized.
The proposal would bar use of any official funds for travel except for one trip back to Washington, D.C., from a member’s state or district if necessary. Congress would also not be allowed to recess for more than 23 hours in any one period, and no campaign funds could be used to supplement a member’s performance of his or her official duties or travel.
In effect, passage of the Lankford–King proposal would force Congress to stay on the job to do its job until it is finished with the budget. No reference is made in the proposal to withholding congressional paychecks.
During a media appearance on Sept. 14, Mr. Lankford said he does not know any member of Congress who wants a government shutdown.
“I don’t know if anyone really wants a shutdown. We do want a solution to some of the issues that are going on especially debt and deficit. All of us see the debt and deficit issue, and we’re always looking for what is the moment that we can actually address this accelerating debt and deficit,” the Oklahoma Republican said.
“This is an issue on ending government shutdowns we’ve talked about for a long time. We do need to have the debate on debt and deficit. We do need to do the hard work of that. We don’t need to have a government shutdown,” he added.
The proposal was first introduced by the senators in 2019, but has never been brought to the floor of the Senate for an up or down vote.
Mr. King, an Independent who caucuses with the Senate’s Democrats, said during the same media appearance with Mr. Lankford that the problem is whenever previous budget showdowns were finally resolved the pressure was off to do anything to avoid the next one.
“The problem is we get through a shutdown and everybody sort of relaxes, says, ‘Ok, that’s done,’ and then moves on. The reality is this is becoming a regular occurrence and, as James Lankford said, it is very damaging to the economy,” Mr. King said.
The Maine Independent claimed that during the previous government in 2018 an estimated 13 percent of mortgages were delayed in being finalized as a result of the inability of federal officials to complete their portion of the approval process.
“We believe this may be a moment when people start taking a solution seriously,” Mr. King said. “What we are basically proposing is there is no travel money, there will be an automatic renewal of a continuing resolution every two weeks until we get a solution. But nobody leaves until we get to that solution.”