Could government shutdowns become a thing of the past?
The latest government shutdown lasted 35 days, the longest shutdown in American history. President Trump wanted $5.7 billion for his border wall with Mexico, while House Democrats refused to appropriate more than the $1.2 billion requested by the White House early in 2018.
On January 25, President Trump agreed to sign legislation reopening the government for 21 days without any of the additional wall funding he had previously insisted on. This means that on February 15, yet another shutdown could be triggered if the President again decides he won’t sign legislation presented to him and if there are not enough votes to override his veto.
What if a trigger automatically kicked in at the time of funding deadlines to prevent a government shutdown from ever occurring in the first place?
What the bill does
The Stop STUPIDITY Act would essentially end the practice of government shutdowns, by automatically renewing the most recent funding level for most departments and agencies if Congress can’t agree by the supposed deadline.
The two exceptions would be no funding for the legislative branch or the office of the presidency, essentially blackmailing Congress and the president — whether Trump or a future president — to come together and compromise.
The bill’s full name is the Stop STUPIDITY [Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The coming Years] Act. (To make the acronym work, the word ‘the’ had to be capitalized although it almost never is, while the word ‘coming’ was not capitalized.)
It was introduced on January 22 as bill number S. 198 by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who represents Virginia which contains many federal employees furloughed by the shutdown.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill ensures that government shutdowns don’t occur again, helping federal workers and those who rely on government services.
“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,” Sen. Warner said in a press 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.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that government shutdowns aren’t as bad as many actually claim, and that it’s a useful bargaining tactic for your policy proposals.
“If we don’t get what we want … I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” President Trump said.
“The only people affected by this are the 800,000 to a million nonessential workers, and if you want to go to the Grand Canyon, you can’t today. It’s shut down. The National Parks are shut down. But what is the Grand Canyon but a giant hole,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show. “Let’s face it, folks, it may be pretty and it may be unique, but it’s a hole in the ground… What kind of government do we have that cannot even let people get to the bottom of a hole without government assistance?”
It also seems likely that the provision about not paying Congress members would run afoul of the 27th Amendment, which bans Congress from changing its own pay (either higher or lower) in the middle of a session.
Odds of passage
As you might imagine, a bill which would fund almost everything except the legislative branch would face an uphill battle passing the legislative branch.
The bill does not yet have any cosponsors, and awaits a potential vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.