DC Notes: Congress has ignored bill by Oklahoma Rep. James Lankford to prevent shutdowns

Though Democrats gave the bill some publicity during the recent shutdown, there has been little interest in legislation that would cut agencies rather than shut them down when spending bills aren't approved.
by Chris Casteel Published: October 20, 2013

Most lawmakers said they never wanted a government shutdown this month, but Rep. James Lankford actually tried to prevent one early this year.

Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, introduced a bill in March that would cut spending at federal departments and agencies rather than shut them down if Congress didn't get its budget work done, which has become the norm in Washington.

Agencies could actually go 120 days without taking any kind of cut, if Congress didn't pass their spending bills. Thereafter, cuts of 1 percent would kick in every 90 days.

That's a lot of leeway for lawmakers who already feel little pressure to complete their most fundamental job — passing a budget and the attendant spending bills.

Lankford's bill briefly became a legislative vehicle for House Democrats wanting to end the recent shutdown; the Democrats' plan was to substitute a resolution passed by the Senate to fund the government.

Before that, the legislation was ignored — for two years, in fact.

Lankford introduced similar legislation in 2011, after Congress came close to shutting down the government, but it languished in the House then, as well.

On the Senate side, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jon Tester, D-Mont., have introduced companion legislation. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, is one of 20 co-sponsors.

Here's what Portman, a former White House budget director, said way back in January:

“Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington's fiscal house back in order.”

Kony language in bill

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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