Government

Brown, Ryan, Portman, Johnson: Shutdown Unlikely

WARREN, Ohio – Ohio’s two U.S. senators and the congressmen who represent the Mahoning Valley in Washington doubt there will be a government shutdown this week, and one of them is taking steps to ensure another one never takes place.

Current funding for the federal government runs through Friday. An extension through Oct. 1, the beginning of the next federal fiscal year, is required to keep nonessential government services operating.

In Warren for a roundtable discussion Monday with members and officers of the United Steel Workers in northeastern Ohio, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said he didn’t think President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan would shut the government down.

“I want to see the government stay open. I can’t believe they can’t get their act together,” Brown, D-Ohio, remarked. “With a Republican president, a Republican House, a Republican Senate, that means that they would be able to do it, and if they close the government down, it’s just remarkable incompetence from them.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, also in Warren for the USW roundtable yesterday, said he doubted there would be a shutdown. “But I’ve been surprised before,” he added.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman calls a shutdown “unwise and unnecessary,” according to spokeswoman Emily Benavides. That was the reason for his introduction Monday of legislation that would “take government shutdowns off the table for good.”

The End Government Shutdowns Act would establish an automatic continuing resolution for any regular appropriations bill or existing continuing resolution for any regular appropriations bill not completed by the Oct. 1 deadline. After the first 120 days, continuing resolution funding would be reduced by 1% and would be reduced by an additional 1% every 90 days thereafter until Congress completes the annual appropriations process.

An estimate from Moody’s put the cost of the most recent shutdown to the American economy in 2013 at $20 billion, according to the Portman’s office. Portman, R-Ohio, called shutdowns “fool’s gold” in the same statement.

“Almost everybody hates government shutdowns. They don’t accomplish anything. They don’t get our fiscal house in order and they disrupt critical government programs that have a big impact on people’s lives,” Portman said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said Monday he is optimistic that ongoing talks would produce an agreement and doubts there would be a shutdown.

“I certainly don’t want one, and none of my Republican colleagues are advocating for one,” he said in an email. “The American people don’t want one, and they’ve said that’s not how they want us to govern.”

The sticking point in negotiations, which cropped up in recent days, was President Trump’s insistence that the spending measure should contain funding for the wall he pledged to build along the southern U.S. border to stem illegal immigration. Last night, Trump appeared to soften his stance, according to various media outlets.

Democrats oppose including funds for the border wall in the funding resolution as well as the wall generally.

“I don’t know what’s a deal breaker,” Brown said.

During the campaign, Trump pledged that Mexico would pay for building the wall and now is calling for U.S. funding to pay for its construction, while at the same time calling for the elimination of the Appalachian Regional Commission and cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and home heating assistance.

“You don’t do that. You don’t take dollars that go into programs that matter in people’s lives and build a wall that even the Republican and Democratic senators and congressman from along those border states where the wall would be built” don’t want, Brown said. “So he’s got to back off this whole idea of U.S. taxpayers paying for the wall because the campaign promise was the wall would be paid for by the Mexicans.”

Portman supports additional funding to secure U.S. borders and has said many times he supports a “multifaceted, layered effort to better secure” those borders, his spokeswoman said.

“In some areas, a physical wall may make sense but in other areas, that may mean more and better use of technology and surveillance,” she said. “He also supports additional border patrol agents.”

Ryan, who opposes the wall, questioned its practicality. Mexico, which also opposes the wall, won’t permit it to be built on its side of the Rio Grande River. Building it on the U.S. side would require acquiring private property.

“You’re basically giving the river to the Mexican government because the wall will be built on our side,” Ryan said.

“It just doesn’t work,” he added. “I’m not going to let them throw billions of dollars at a boondoggle because Trump made a campaign promise and then cut funds for education and research and Meals on Wheels.”

Johnson said he supports including funding for the border wall in the continuing resolution, even if its inclusion is a deal-breaker for Democrats.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think the Democrats want to be responsible for a government shutdown,” Johnson said.

“National security is the No. 1 job of the federal government. Donald Trump ran on constructing a border wall, and I support him in this effort. We must regain control over our southern border.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.