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Portman Renews Proposal to End Government Shutdowns — Without Democrats

Portman's proposal would provide for automatic CRs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rob Portman is again proposing to stop the threat of government shutdowns in the future, despite his formerly bipartisan measure not receiving a vote.  

With the procedural steps taken by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to block the offering of any amendments, the Ohio Republican and others won't get votes during the current debate on advancing a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 11, which will come up for a vote within the next 24 hours.  

That reality did not stop Portman from coming to the floor to request the advancement of his amendment.  

"We would say that as of Sept. 30, if there is any bill that is not passed, any one of the 12 — remember that this year  none of the 12 were passed — none of them. But on any year, if any one of those were not passed, then we would simply continue the spending from the previous year, but there would be a reduction in that spending over time. After 120 days there would be a 1 percent reduction," Portman explained on the floor. "So we get to a point where we have to see a reduction in spending every year, which is not necessarily a bad thing because Congress spends more than it takes in every year. But if appropriators and others here in Congress don't want to see that, they would have to get their act together and actually pass appropriations bills. Once an appropriations bill is passed, the End Government Shutdowns Act would not apply."  

Portman's proposal now has only Republican backing. The standalone legislation in the 113th Congress had Sen. Jon Tester of Montana as a lead Democratic co-sponsor. But the current chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has had a change of heart this year.  

"Sen. Tester sponsored this bill in 2012 to send a message to his colleagues: Let's do our job and govern," Tester spokeswoman Marnee Banks said. "Then the 2013 government shutdown took place and it became abundantly clear that there are some folks in Washington — particularly in the House of Representatives — who have no intention of governing responsibly and would use this bill to give them another excuse not to."  

Portman is one of the DSCC's top targets next year and facing a challenge from former Gov. Ted Strickland in a battleground state at both the presidential and Senate levels. But the implication from Tester's office is there is a concern some lawmakers would actually prefer perpetual CRs to ever achieving the goal of enacting regular appropriation bills. Tester is also a member of the Appropriations Committee, where he is now the ranking member on the subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs.  

As for the immediate matter, senators are on track to send the stopgap bill to the House with plenty of time to spare before the deadline at the end of Wednesday, having voted 77-19 to thwart any filibuster threats Monday evening.  

"I'm not prepared to let Democrats lead us over the cliff. The bill before us would keep the government open and allow time for cooler heads to prevail. That’s why I joined 76 other Senators in voting to advance it yesterday," McConnell said Tuesday morning. "But look: Obviously, the best way to fund the government is by first passing a budget, and then passing appropriations bills."

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