The first three words of the Constitution are “We the People,” words that acknowledge our government exists to serve the public. As your senator in Washington, I intend to make sure that Congress does its job by accomplishing its most basic function: continuing to serve the American people.

Some in the House of Representatives are beginning to suggest they are willing to shut down the federal government to protest federal spending – choosing to govern by crisis. Though I stand ready to have the hard conversations we need to get our fiscal house in order, I do not agree with this approach.

Shutdowns are costly, confusing and harmful to Maine’s working families. In recent shutdowns, we’ve seen serious impacts in Maine: Social Security payments at risk of disruption; 13,000 Maine federal employees furloughed or forced to work without a guaranteed paycheck; stories of Transportation Security Administration workers living on grocery store gift cards from friends; low-income families faced with reduced or eliminated SNAP or TANF benefits, forcing them to lean on food banks; the housing market suffering because Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loans couldn’t be processed; and our beautiful parks, like Acadia, being closed off to the people who wanted to visit them. And contrary to much of the rhetoric, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the last government shutdown did not save our country money – it cost our economy $3 billion dollars. These examples just begin to describe the pain that a government shutdown can cause.

Maine people should not have to worry about political theater to receive the benefits and services that they have time and again called on the Senate to protect. Congress needs to do its job, come to the table and agree on a spending bill to support the jobs and services that keep our country safe, look out for our citizens’ health, and safeguard the places essential to our national heritage.

When the government shutdown talk begins on Capitol Hill, it’s not just a tactic or a political talking point – it’s a threat to families, communities and our national economy. That’s why, earlier this year, I introduced a bipartisan bill with my Republican colleague Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma to make shutdowns a thing of the past, and prioritize stability over standoffs.

The Prevent Government Shutdowns Act is a way for Congress to get its job done, and avoid putting Maine people and the economy at risk.  First, if Congress doesn’t find an agreement on spending levels at the end of a budget period – in this current case, it would be the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 – then the federal government would continue running at the previous spending levels for a two-week period. That would keep the federal workforce on the job and preserve access to services for Americans nationwide. Secondly, the bill would eliminate funding for congressional travel until new spending agreements are passed. Finally, with Congress remaining at work, the bill would require that the only permissible legislative activity is negotiation on spending. No unrelated votes would be permitted during this timeframe.


The bipartisan Prevent Shutdowns Act is not a novel, or partisan, idea. According to the Peterson Foundation, 90% of voters – including 91% of Democrats and 89% of Republicans – are looking for lawmakers to avoid a shutdown that would cause far too much harm and very little good. We must safeguard taxpayer dollars and protect Maine people from the harmful and costly effects of a government shutdown.

So what is the significance of a bipartisan bill to end government shutdowns? For all of the off-base political commentary about how a shutdown is necessary to get our spending under control, I suggest that we, as members of Congress, sit down at the negotiating table (well in advance of looming deadlines) to hash out our differences. That’s what is supposed to happen in Congress among lawmakers – and something that Sen. Lankford and I have urged our colleagues to practice. If it were up to me, I’d have the Senate and House lock ourselves in a room and hammer out a road forward together on a bipartisan basis. This bill is the closest thing to that sort of thing we were able to turn into legislation.

Bottom line: The bipartisan Prevent Shutdowns Act protects American families and communities, provides stability to our economy and forces Congress to do its job.

Is that too much to ask?

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