The current government shutdown appears to have no obvious end in sight, but one member of Congress is already looking to make sure that the next one doesn’t happen at all.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the Stop Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage in The Coming Years Act Jan. 22, which would ensure that all parts of government, except the legislative branch and Executive Office of the President, would be funded at previous levels in the event of a lapse in appropriations.
“The Stop STUPIDITY Act takes the aggressive but necessary step of forcing the president and Congress to do the jobs they were elected to do,” said Warner in a news release. “It is disturbing that the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of workers are at the mercy of dysfunction in Washington. Workers, business owners and tax payers are currently paying the price of D.C. gridlock and my legislation will put an end to that.”
Historically, the failure of Congress and the president to enact annual appropriations has not always led to a government shutdown.
Prior to 1980, federal agencies generally continued to operate during a funding gap but minimized nonessential operations to keep spending levels as low as possible.
According to a Congressional Research Service report updated Dec. 10, 2018, then-U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti issued two opinions in 1980 and 1981 that strictly interpreted the Antideficiency Act.
“In brief, the opinions stated that, with some exceptions, the head of an agency could avoid violating the Antideficiency Act only by suspending the agency’s operations until the enactment of an appropriation,” the report said.
“In the absence of appropriations, exceptions would be allowed only when there is ‘some reasonable and articulable connection between the function to be performed and the safety of human life or the protection of property.’”
According to Warner, his legislation would force Congress and the White House to come to the negotiating table without jeopardizing the functions or employees of federal agencies.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.