A bipartisan group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Angus King (I-Maine) thinks members of Congress should stay in the nation's capital as long as it takes, without any days off, until the 2024 federal budget is completed.
Titled the "Prevent Government Shutdowns Act" of 2023, the Lankford–Scott proposal was introduced in January to little fanfare but is now getting attention because of Congress's inability to come up with a spending plan that enough Democrats and Republicans support to become law.
The act requires members of Congress and their staffs to stay on the job until the budget is agreed upon by the Senate and House of Representatives and sent to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The proposal is co-sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
The proposal provides for a rolling series of 14-day periods following the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30, when the government runs of out appropriated funds. Members and staff would be required to remain on the job and couldn't work on any other legislation until the budget is finalized.
The proposal would bar use of any official funds for travel except for one trip back to Washington from a member's state or district if necessary. Congress also wouldn't be allowed to recess for more than 23 hours in any one period, and no campaign funds could be used to supplement a member's performance of his or her official duties or travel.
No reference is made in the proposal to withholding congressional paychecks.
During a media appearance on Sept. 14, Mr. Lankford said, "I don’t know if anyone really wants a shutdown."
"This is an issue on ending government shutdowns we’ve talked about for a long time. We do need to have the debate on debt and deficit. We do need to do the hard work of that. We don’t need to have a government shutdown," he added.
The proposal was first introduced by the senators in 2019 but has never been brought to the floor of the Senate for an up or down vote.
Mr. King, an independent who caucuses with the Senate's Democrats, said during the same media appearance with Mr. Lankford that the problem is that whenever previous budget showdowns were finally resolved, the pressure was off to do anything to avoid the next one.
"The problem is we get through a shutdown and everybody sort of relaxes, says, 'OK, that's done,' and then moves on. The reality is this is becoming a regular occurrence, and, as James Lankford said, it is very damaging to the economy," Mr. King said.
He claimed that during the government shutdown in 2018, an estimated 13 percent of mortgages were delayed in being finalized as a result of the inability of federal officials to complete their portion of the approval process.
"We believe this may be a moment when people start taking a solution seriously," Mr. King said. "What we are basically proposing is there is no travel money, there will be an automatic renewal of a continuing resolution every two weeks until we get a solution. But nobody leaves until we get to that solution."