‘Stop STUPIDITY Act’ Would End Government Shutdowns

Mark Warner appears in a suit.
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Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced anti-shutdown legislation on Tuesday, legislation that would ostensibly guarantee funding in case of a partial government shutdown for all aspects of the government outside of the legislative branch and the office of the president, the Hill reports.

In arguably the furthest reach for a legislative acronym since the USA PATRIOT Act, the bill promises to put an end to “Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years.”

If signed into law, the act would keep the government running in the event of a partial shutdown, including provisions for payment for most of the federal workers furloughed today. Currently, an estimated 800,000 federal workers are affected — and are collectively approaching their second missed paycheck as a result of the impasse.

“The Stop STUPIDITY Act takes the aggressive but necessary step of forcing the president and Congress to do the jobs they were elected to do,” Warner said in a statement. “Workers, business owners and tax payers are currently paying the price of D.C. gridlock and my legislation will put an end to that.”

The goal of the act is to “protect federal government workers from being used as pawns in policy negotiations,” reads a press release announcing the bill.

Representing a district in Virginia, Warner’s constituents include a disproportionate number of workers affected by the shutdown, be they federal employees or contractors.

“It is disturbing that the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of workers are at the mercy of dysfunction in Washington,” Warner said.

Warner’s bill comes at a time when extended partial government shutdowns, once considered a procedural nuclear option during major policy disputes, are in danger of becoming routine. Although there have been 21 shutdowns since 1976, only four have extended longer than two weeks, with most resolving in less than five days. The current shutdown, now at day 33, is the longest in history.

Until a reinterpretation of the law during the Carter administration, even if a budget was not passed, funding would continue under the assumption that Congress would reconcile the spending after the budgetary impasse had ended. It wasn’t until Carter’s presidency, per Time, that a legal opinion based on the Antideficiency Act of 1870 upended more than 100 years of budgetary tradition — in favor of today’s understanding of congressional “power of the purse.”

This reinterpretation opened the door for more serious shutdowns, particularly in times of partisan policy divisions.

Due to the same entrenched political divisions making the shutdown a reality in the fist place, the Stop STUPIDITY Act is not likely to reach a vote at this time.