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Can S. 198 prevent future government shutdowns? Read the details of the proposed bill, & its chances of becoming law.
02/06/2019 116th Congress Stephanie V
keywords: Government Shutdown

Can we stop future government shutdowns? Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) wants to make sure of it. After the most recent government shutdown that lasted thirty-five days and left more than 800,000 federal workers without paychecks for two pay periods, the general consensus among the public seems to be that this cannot happen again. The shutdown, which was the longest in U.S. history, crippled the airline industry, put the IRS on pause with sending out income tax refunds, and left parts of our borders unprotected. It also cost the federal government far more than the $5.7 billion President Trump was asking to build his promised border wall with Mexico, with Congress's refusal to give it to him being the reason for the shutdown.

Senate Bill 198 aims to fix this issue. The proposed bill, which has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee and does not yet have any co-sponsors, would ensure automatic funding for the government if a budget impasse between the President and Congress ever happens again. Known as the Stop the Stupidity Act, the bill would automatically renew funding for the government at its most recent level, and keep it there until new budget negotiations are completed.

The caveat in the bill is that Congress and the office of the President would receive no funding while budget negotiations are ongoing. The idea behind this part of the bill is that by funding all other government workers, but keeping Congress and the President from being paid, the two entities would have more incentive to make sure budget negotiations never reach an impasse as they did in the most recent government shutdown.

While the bill has broad bipartisan support in the private sector thanks to its promise of keeping federal workers paid and benefits released on time, there is some opposition to it, as well. Some opponents believe the possibility of a government shutdown is a useful bargaining tool for the individual policy proposals of Congressional members or the President. In fact, President Trump did just this in the most recent shutdown, saying he would be proud to close the government in order to force Congress to give him funding for the wall.

There are also questions of whether the bill would go against the 27th Amendment, which prohibits Congress from changing its pay in the middle of a session. Of course, the amendment says nothing about stopping pay during a session, so the bill's legality, if it is passed, might have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Also, members of Congress are not expected to be enthusiastic about passing a bill that would keep them from getting paid. Still, if their constituents are enthusiastic about the proposal, it may have a chance of having a successful vote if it makes it through the Appropriations Committee.Stephanie V

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