U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, will introduce this week his bill that proposes to end government shutdowns.
It’s a bill he’s introduced the past few sessions of Congress that’s received bipartisan support in recent years.
“I don’t like shutdowns, I don’t think they work for anybody,” Portman said to the Journal-News. “Taxpayers end up paying more with regards to shutdowns, because although you shut down parts of government for a while, you still have essential employees that have to come to work, and we always end up having to pay people that didn’t have to come to work.”
The bill says that if a spending bill is not decided by the end of the fiscal year, the government would be funded at the same rate as the previous year, but it’s reduced by 1 percent every few months. Portman’s End Government Shutdowns Act languished in the Senate Appropriations Committee since it was introduced in April 2017.
“What it would really do is to force Congress to do its work earlier and come up with individual spending bills — there are 14 different spending bills we’re supposed to do — that have not only the spending but the reforms of government programs,” Portman said.
The senator said if government shutdowns are not as dire of an issue, then Congress can focus on improving border security.
“My hope is that we can avoid these shutdowns and deal with the issue, and the issue is how much money should we spend on border security,” Portman said. “I think the border security is really important, including for drugs.”
He said heroin and crystal meth, which is on the rise, is mostly coming from Mexico on the southern border. He said about 10 percent of the drugs coming across the border is being stopped, “so we’ve got to do a better job, and part of that is border security.”
However, the Department of Homeland Security is a part of the 25 percent of the government that’s been shut down for more than two weeks. Homeland Security addresses border security and illegal immigration, and agents are working without pay. In all, more than 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, including agents from the TSA, IRS and Coast Guard, and agents with the FBI, ATF and DEA. Another 380,000 federal employees have been furloughed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican-led Senate would work to pass legislation that comes from the Democratic-controlled U.S. House that’s supported by President Donald Trump, who said in December he’d take credit for shutting down the government.
Trump and Democratic congressional leaders have met to attempt to end the shutdown with no deals reached. At issue is Trump’s desire for $5 billion in funding for a border wall, which isn’t on the Democrats’ agenda. They’ll support $1.3 billion for increased border security, but not a wall.
Trump has said the shutdown could last a few months, or even a year or longer, but said Friday, “I hope it doesn’t go beyond a few more days.”
The House has passed a bill to reopen the government, but the Senate isn’t taking it up.