Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Congress is deadlocked in a spending fight as a government shutdown looms at the end of the week. But just in the nick of time, Senate leaders from both parties come together and broker a deal to prevent a shutdown: all we have to do is ignore the rules and pass a big spending bill full of their pet projects.
This drama is so predictable that it seems like there should be a solution by now. As it turns out, there are several serious, popular, bipartisan solutions to end to this shutdown theater once and for all.
But here’s the sad truth: we keep getting into these government shutdown fights because the leadership on both sides of the aisle want it this way.
They need government shutdowns as a threat to jam through their big spending bills before the American people find out what’s in them.
I’m going to list some of the strong, bipartisan solutions to fix this problem that have been introduced in Congress. Keep in mind that, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week that a government shutdown would be “a terrible outcome for the country,” and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s “critically important to the American people for the government not to shut down,” none of these solutions has been brought to the Senate floor for a vote from leaders in either party.
The No Budget No Pay Act is a bipartisan bill I wrote with Sen Rick Scott and Senator Joe Manchin during the longest government shutdown in history. No Budget, No Pay simply says that if Congress fails to pass our spending bills on time, we don’t get a paycheck until we do.
This solution would provide an incentive for Congress to really make a budget and stick to it: something they haven’t done in decades. If this bill had been law last year, Congress would have gone 83 days without a paycheck. That would be all the motivation this place needs to finish our spending bills on time.
Earlier this month, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine authored the End Shutdowns Act, which would automatically pass a clean funding bill if Congress fails to pass our spending bills by the October 1st deadline.
A similar solution is the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act, written by Republican Senator James Lankford and Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. This bill would remove the drama of these spending fights by funding the government in two week increments if Congress misses their budget deadline. This bill would also stop Congress from considering any legislation except government funding bills until the job is done. It has broad support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
Senator Dan Sullivan’s Pay Our Military Act would ensure American military service members keep getting paid if the government shuts down.
These bills have support in both the House and Senate.
I visit every one of Indiana’s 92 counties every year, and I guarantee you the American people would prefer Congress pass solutions like this instead of another one of President Biden’s inflation bomb spending bills.
Every year, tons of bills hitch a ride on massive spending packages and get passed into law. Yet none of these common-sense solutions to end government shutdown drama has ever been given the same treatment.
And the reason is simple: Senate leadership from both parties likes it this way. The last-minute drama gives them leverage to get what they want: more spending and less accountability.
We got the text of this short-term spending bill on Tuesday evening, one hour before the Senate voted to end debate on it. We spend more time debating what to name a post office.
These spending bills are negotiated behind closed doors and sprung on Senators at the last second, all by design.
It reminds me of the 4,000 page “omnibus” bill we received at one in the morning last December. That was $1.7 trillion dollars – more than we spent on the entire war in Vietnam, adjusted for inflation – jammed through in a matter of days before anyone had time to find out what’s in it.
The American people are paying for this dysfunction every time they go to the grocery store or fill up their gas tank. President Biden’s inflation crisis is giving every American a pay cut, and a lack of leadership in the Senate allowed it to happen.
What we really need is to grow a backbone and stop the spending bonanza, but the least we could do is end the government shutdown drama that pushes us deeper into debt multiple times a year.
Senate leadership must take a stand and put these solutions on the floor for a vote.