The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sen. Mark Warner introduces ‘Stop STUPIDITY Act’ aimed at preventing future shutdowns

Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) talks with furloughed government employees during a roundtable discussion Jan. 11 in Alexandria. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

With the partial federal shutdown having entered its second month and no resolution in sight, a Democratic senator is introducing a bill that he says would prevent such crises in the future.

The name of the bill: the Stop STUPIDITY Act.

The measure, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), would automatically keep all of the federal government running in the case of a future funding standoff — with the exceptions of the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President.

“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,” Warner said in a statement. “Workers, business owners and tax payers are currently paying the price of D.C. gridlock and my legislation will put an end to that.”

The full name of Warner’s measure is the “Stop Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage in the Coming Years Act” — a moniker that, some astute Congress watchers pointed out, actually results in the acronym “Stop STUPIDITCY Act.”

Over the years, as members of Congress have tangled over keeping the federal government funded, lawmakers of both parties have sometimes sought to withhold congressional pay in the event of a shutdown.

But the constitutionality of doing so remains a matter of debate, and such measures have been largely symbolic in nature.

In 2011, the Senate unanimously passed a bill stating that neither members of Congress nor the president would receive their basic pay during any government shutdown of longer than 24 hours.

When House Democrats sought to introduce their version of the legislation, however, Republicans surprised them by revealing that the Obama administration had notified them that attempting to dock lawmakers’ pay was “patently unconstitutional.”

Republicans argued that a separate GOP-authored measure was constitutional because it would just temporarily withhold pay rather than eliminate it.