Rob Portman, Jon Tester Look to Head Off CR Mess

Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:36pm

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced bipartisan legislation today that would curb the government shutdown showdowns that have recently come to define the rhythms of Capitol Hill.

The End Government Shutdowns Act would create a 120-day automatic stopgap bill, or continuing resolution, at current spending levels if regular appropriations bills are not approved by the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. After that four-month period, if Congress has still failed to act, the continuing resolution levels would be reduced by 1 percent every 90 days.

Both parties have used the threat of shutdown to try to score political points on budget issues, and spending bill deadlines have become one of the key mechanisms for leaders to force cooperation, regularly toying with thousands of federal workers and facilities in the process.

“Although Congress continually fails to pass appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, we should not force Americans to face the threat of government shutdown hanging over their heads,” Portman said in a statement. “Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington’s fiscal house back in order.”

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who is facing one of the toughest re-election battles in the country, is the Democratic co-sponsor of the bill. Other co-sponsors include Republican Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dan Coats (Ind.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mike Lee (Utah) and John McCain (Ariz.).

This is not the first time Portman has teamed up with a vulnerable, in-cycle Democrat. He has worked regularly with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), his partner on the Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on government contracting oversight.

Though both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly committed to approving appropriations bills earlier this year, Congress’ ability to do so is in serious question.

Facing a fall deadline, the process is not as far along as it should be. Earlier this month, the two leaders exchanged stern words over what has been jamming up the process.

Many sources have conceded that another continuing resolution is likely.

A similar bill to Portman’s was offered in the House by Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.).