“It changes the default from shutdown to the same budget,” Grayson said during an interview with The Post on Tuesday. “I don’t think the founders ever intended us to face one shutdown after another.”
Both parties have tried in the past to use shutdowns and shutdown warnings as leverage to win concessions on hot-button issues ranging from spending to abortion. But Republicans have led the most recent efforts, which occurred during the Clinton and Obama administrations.
This year, conservative lawmakers threatened to allow Department of Homeland Security funding to lapse unless President Obama approved legislation to roll back his recent plans for shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Neither side was initially willing to budge.
The standoff left Homeland Security employees, including personnel who patrol U.S. borders, inspect cargo and screen airplane passengers, spending weeks in doubt. Under a shutdown scenario, those whose jobs are vital to national security would have to work without pay, while all others would be sent home to wait for the funding lapse to end.
After agreeing to a one-week extension of Homeland Security appropriations last Friday, Congress finally passed a bill this week to fully fund the department for the remainder of the fiscal year with no provision to block Obama’s controversial immigration orders.
Federal employees were less fortunate in 2013, when Congress allowed a partial shutdown to occur amid GOP attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Closures also happened in 1995 and 1996, when Republicans were fighting with President Bill Clinton over spending on Medicare, education, the environment and public health.
“The evil dynamic of all this is that, over and over again, we’re confronted with the same two choices: Pass a bill or see the government shut down,” Grayson said. “It represents a risk to the country.”
It’s unclear whether Grayson can win over enough Republicans to push his bill through Congress at a time when the power of the purse is one of their biggest bargaining chips, but GOP lawmakers have supported and even sponsored similar legislation in the past.
Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced a nearly identical anti-shutdown bill in 2013, and former congressman George Gekas (R-Pa.) pitched legislation in 1999 to ensure that a closure would not occur the following year.
Eighteen Republicans co-sponsored the former bill, while 30 backed the latter one. In his quest to rally support for the “Shut Down the Shutdowns Act,” Grayson could start with that batch of GOP lawmakers, or at least those who are still serving in Congress.