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Sen. Rob Portman says he hopes to ban government shutdowns forever

January 29, 2019 GMT

Sen. Rob Portman says he hopes to ban government shutdowns forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen Rob Portman says he hopes federal legislators have finally learned their lesson after a partial government shutdown that lasted more than a month and cost the economy at least $11 billion.

After introducing legislation in every Congress since 2011 that would end government shutdowns, the Ohio Republican thinks there’s now enough consensus on the issue to pass his bill.

“Shutdowns don’t make sense – they’re a bad idea,” Portman told reporters on Tuesday, arguing that they hurt taxpayers, and federal employees, and government contractors alike. And now, everyone has been reminded of that.

Portman’s legislation wouldn’t let government funding lapse if Congress fails to pass spending bills. It would extend the previous year’s level of funding for four months, and then ratchet down funding levels to give budget negotiators an incentive to reach agreement.


Half of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate have signed onto Portman’s bill. He says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have said they back legislation to end shutdowns. Portman’s bill has obtained support from Democrats in past years, but currently lacks any Democratic co-sponsors.

On Monday, GOP Rep. Troy Balderson of Zanesville teamed up with New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew to introduce the House of Representatives’ counterpart of Portman’s bill, saying it’s Congress’ job to ensure the government remains fully functional.

“Shutdowns habitually put the federal government—and everyday Americans—in peril of not receiving their due paychecks or accessing critical resources,” said a statement from Balderson.

When asked about Portman’s bill on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she was unfamiliar with it and would not “get into the hypotheticals” of taking shutdowns off the table as a negotiating tool.

She told reporters that President Donald Trump doesn’t want to go through another shutdown, and hopes Democrats will “negotiate in good faith, as they indicated that they would” to produce a deal that fixes the problem.

Asked about the odds of another shutdown when temporary government funding expires in mid-February, Portman sidestepped the question, saying he hopes that any package Congress considers to fund government through the rest of 2019 will contain the permanent shutdown ban he seeks.

Even if it’s not included, he says he hopes negotiators can “work something out that would be acceptable to both sides” so there won’t be a shutdown.

“Finally, there is a sense that we are tired of this and we want to see something different,” Portman said. “I am hearing this from Republicans and Democrats alike, even those who are not on my bill, that we need to do something.”