In-Depth: Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to prevent lawmakers from leaving Washington if they fail to pass a budget by April 15th each year and complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year:
“Every year for the past twenty years, Congress has failed to meet its most basic responsibility to fund the government on time. To add insult to injury, Members of Congress are allowed to go home on recess before finishing the job that they were hired to do. There is not a single business, local government or family in our country that can operate this way, and Congress should be held to the same standards and play by the same set of rules as the American people.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) adds that the January 2019 government shutdown is a prime example of the need for this legislation:
“During this past shutdown, our federal workers, our farmers and our communities were suffering while lawmakers went home for the holidays. This is an unacceptable way to govern. In Iowa, if you don’t finish the job, you don’t go home. Proud to work with Rep. Arrington on bipartisan legislation that prevents lawmakers from packing up and going home without passing a budget.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who introduced the Senate version of this bill a month before Rep. Arrington introduced this bill in the House, says:
“Hardworking Iowans, and Americans across the country, are sick and tired of government shutdowns, continuing resolutions and massive omnibus spending bills. This dysfunctional cycle is not the way our government was designed to function or should function. If we fail to pass a budget and spending bills, we should stay in town and work together until we get the job done.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), an original cosponsor of the Senate version of this bill, adds that preventing Congress from breaking for recesses with a decision on funding puts pressure on legislators to do their jobs:
“If the government shuts down due to congressional dysfunction and failure to agree on spending bills, Members of the Senate and House, the President, and his Cabinet should not be allowed to leave DC. If we want to really put the pressure on Congress to take action on funding, we should prevent Members from going home or traveling during pre-scheduled ‘recess weeks,’ which would encourage Congress to actually have those tough conversations about spending. Just as Americans expect us to, we need to stay until the job is done. We are on day 26 of the longest-ever government shutdown, and yet Congress is about to go home for the weekend, with some Members flying out of the country. The proposal that we offer today would keep Congress in town until the budget is finally resolved. During a government shutdown, Congress and the White House should experience pain, not the American people.”
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) supports this bill as a way to make it more likely that lawmakers will meet budget deadlines:
“The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget supports changes that make it more likely for lawmakers to meet budget deadlines. We recommended changes to help lawmakers end crisis-driven budgeting, including both incentives (e.g., expedited procedures if Congress is overdue) or disincentives like preventing lawmakers from leaving for recess or making it more difficult to consider other legislation. We reaffirmed our support in a later memo to the JSC for incentives or disincentives, including travel restrictions until a budget resolution is adopted… As the [January 2019 partial government shutdown] illustrates, failure to meet fiscal deadlines reaps dire consequences for hundreds of thousands of federal employees and dozens of federal agencies and departments. Yet Congress adjourned for the holidays while seven major appropriations bills remained in limbo. A measure like the No Budget, No Recess Act would have provided an additional incentive for lawmakers to stay until a solution to the outstanding appropriations bills was found.”
In testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform (JSC) in the 115th Congress, CRFB president Maya MacGuineas testified that “[t]oo often, Congress does not even complete a budget resolution. That is a true abdication of responsibility and it should not be acceptable to any of us.”
This bill has 16 bipartisan cosponsors in the current session of Congress, including 14 Republicans and two Democrats. It’s the House companion to a Senate bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) with the support of three Republican cosponsors.
Last Congress, Rep. Arrington introduced this bill with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), but it didn’t receive a committee vote.
Rep. Arrington unsuccessfully attempted to get a vote on this bill as an amendment to the For the People Act of 2019.
Of Note: Congress is supposed to fund the government by October 1 — the first day of the new fiscal year. However, since 1976, Congress has only funded the government on time four times, the most recent of which was in 1996. Instead, it usually uses temporary funding extensions called “continuing resolutions,” of which it passes an average of five a year. Funding impasses have also contributed to 21 government shutdowns since 1976.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / mj0007)