"You could end government shutdowns forever," said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a cosponsor of Portman's bill and a member of the budget conference committee. "I think that's a really good piece of legislation. "¦ I think there's a fair amount of support for that Portman-Lankford-type language."
Portman is also a member of the budget conference committee, which is working to come up with a solution by Dec. 13 to avoid another crisis, and he has continued to push his fellow conferees to adopt his shutdown legislation.
But the expectations for the conference committee are low, putting Congress on a path to yet another fiscal deadline on Jan. 15, at which point the government will again shut down unless the increasingly intractable body is able to come to some sort of agreement.
The constant leaping from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis is what inspired Lankford and Portman to draw up their legislation. A Tester spokesman echoed those sentiments in a statement: "Senator Tester would prefer Congress work together like it did before obstruction and partisanship became fixtures in recent years. Given the current climate that keeps even small bills from passing the Senate, this bill ensures that the federal government continues to function," spokesman Les Braswell said.
But despite the public backlash during the last shutdown, and the loud voices on both sides of the aisle calling for an end to shutdowns, the Portman and Lankford bills appear to be headed nowhere fast.
Both bills are stuck in their respective Appropriations committees — and they're likely to stay there. House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing told Government Executive in October that the committee would not support the Lankford or Portman bills. The legislation would, after all, severely undercut the committee's efforts.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who sits on the Appropriations Committee, hasn't taken a position on the Lankford bill, but he says that he is concerned about the effect it would have on his committee's work.
"I am a fan of regular order and Congress doing its work in a timely manner," Kingston said. "The problem with ruling by continuing resolutions is that you give up the opportunity to advance reforms and make government more accountable."
And although Tester has signed onto Portman's bill, a number of Democrats in both chambers say they would oppose the legislation as well. In the era of gridlock, Democrats need the threat of a shutdown as much as Republicans do.
A 1-percent cut in spending every 90 days is hardly enough incentive to bring both sides to the table — just look at sequestration. Those cuts, which are much deeper, were designed to force Congress to reach a deal. That plan failed, and sequestration is set to enter its second year of spending cuts in January unless Congress acts in the next few weeks.