No federal budget? Congress must continue working to approve one, says Ernst

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) this month unveiled Republican-led legislation that would keep members of Congress on Capitol Hill until they approved a federal budget on deadline.

“Hardworking Iowans and Americans across the country are sick and tired of government shutdowns, continuing resolutions and massive omnibus spending bills,” Sen. Ernst said. “This dysfunctional cycle is not the way our government was designed to function or should function.”

The No Budget, No Recess Act, S. 186, which she sponsored on Jan. 17, would ensure timely completion of the concurrent resolution on the budget and regular appropriations bills, among other purposes, according to the congressional record summary.

“If we fail to pass a budget and spending bills, we should stay in town and work together until we get the job done,” said Sen. Ernst, who was joined by U.S. Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and David Perdue (R-GA) in introducing S. 186.

Members of Congress would have to pass a federal budget by April 15 or approve regular spending bills by Aug. 1 and would be unable to adjourn for the August state work period — or recess — until their work is completed, according to Sen. Ernst’s statement.

“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,” said Sen. Lankford.

Congress is required annually to approve federal government funding by Oct. 1, which is the first day of the new fiscal year. However, since 1976, Congress has done so only four times, Ernst said, noting there have also been 21 government shutdowns since 1976.

“Just as Americans expect us to, we need to stay until the job is done,” said Sen. Lankford, who pointed to the recent “longest-ever government shutdown” that just received a temporary presidential reprieve.

“During a government shutdown,” he said, “Congress and the White House should experience pain, not the American people.”

Sen. Perdue agreed that federal lawmakers “should be held to the same standards of people in the real world.”

“Enough is enough,” said Sen. Perdue. “It’s time to create a politically neutral platform to fund the government on time every year.”

If enacted, S. 186 would require that if both chambers of Congress haven’t passed a budget by April 15 or approved all appropriations bills by Aug. 1, then members wouldn’t be able to adjourn for more than eight hours; no funds would be available for official travel; and two quorum calls would be held per day to ensure that members don’t leave Washington, according to a summary of the bill from Sen. Ernst’s office.

S. 186 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.