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Prevent Government Shutdowns Act

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 17, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, this all feels strangely familiar. It is the middle of December. We are facing a government shutdown, arguing behind the scenes over the final details, discussing whether we are going to do a short-term CR, wondering what is going to happen. Everyone has this sense that if we don't get the bill done by tomorrow, then we are going to end up in shutdown and all the problems that causes.

Senator Hassan and I stand in the back and hold up our hands and say: In February of last year, we proposed a solution to this that fits this exact scenario to keep us from holding Federal workers and all of our agencies in harm's way.

The ending government shutdowns bill is designed for this moment. For whatever reason, we have not been able to agree to pass it. It is a process document. It doesn't solve all of the policy issues we have. We have real policy differences, but we should not have process differences at moments like this. It is not good for the American people. It is not good for the U.S. Senate or the U.S. Congress to stand at the precipice of a shutdown and to say: Maybe we go over; maybe we don't. Maybe we have a short-term continuing resolution; maybe we pass the 12 appropriations bills. We shouldn't ever get to that moment.

Our simple idea is not a partisan idea. Senator Hassan and I released a simple, straightforward idea. You get to the end of the fiscal year, whenever that may be, and if we have not finished all the appropriations work, we continue working until it gets done. An automatic continuing resolution kicks in so that no Federal worker is worried that they are going to have furloughs right before Christmas; no agency is panicked about what happens next and who do I have to furlough and who do I have to keep and who is essential and who is nonessential. None of that happens. None of that waste occurs. We continue debating until we resolve the issue. That is all that it is.

We have 12 appropriations bills that are not done. Painfully, in this year of COVID, there have been only 22 total appropriations hearings in 12 months--22. That is 12 appropriations committees, 12 months, only 22 hearings total for all of them.

We have not completed the appropriations work on time, so now we are struggling with the what-ifs. Senator Hassan and I have a straightforward idea. Let's pass the end government shutdowns bill. Let's continue our negotiations so we don't have to be in the shadow of a shutdown again next year.

It is doable. It shouldn't be controversial. It should be obvious. When we get to a time period like this, if we are not complete, we keep working until it is done. In the meantime, we don't leave. It is the exact statement I have heard from everybody in the Chamber so far today. We need to stay until it is done. I agree. That should be the process every time we get to this moment. We stay until the work gets done. Our bill just mandates that, and it keeps us from ever having to say the word ``shutdown'' again.

So I would encourage this body again, as I did all of last year, as I did all of this year: Let's end government shutdowns. Let's keep debating the policy. We have differences. We know that. But let's end the thought of government shutdowns.