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How would Ohio's U.S. Senate candidates handle a potential government shutdown if they make it to Washington, D.C.?

2023-09-28
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - If any of the Republicans running to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate make it to Washington, D.C., chances are they will have to deal with a potential government shutdown like the one that's currently looming there. The current set of federal government spending bills expire this weekend, which means non-essential government offices will close unless Congress can pass a new funding measure. The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan temporary funding measure on Tuesday that would keep the government running through Nov. 17 and devote roughly $6 billion each to disaster relief and the Ukraine war effort. But the Republican-controlled House meanwhile has yet to introduce its own bill as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy works to unify hard-right GOP caucus members and relatively moderate Republicans. Ohio's three major GOP U.S. Senate candidates, Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose all have commented this week on the potential government shutdown, as has the man they're all running to replace in next year's election, longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Here's what they said, and what it suggests about how they would approach the issue. Dolan, a Chagrin Falls Republican whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians, has the most relevant experience of the three candidates. He is the chair of the Ohio Senate's Finance Committee, and helped negotiate and pass the last three state budget bills, including a two-year, $190 billion budget over the summer. While they never reached Washington proportions, budget negotiations in Columbus have stalled at times. They faltered badly enough in 2019 that lawmakers passed a 17-day stopgap funding measure to buy more time. Lawmakers discussed a similar temporary spending measure in June, but ended up coming to a deal before the state's fiscal deadline. While the shutdowns in Washington are often a cudgel in partisan fighting between the two parties, Republicans dominate the state legislature. Dolan's budget battles largely have been with other Republicans, not Democrats. In an email to cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, Dolan said voters he talks to want the federal government to end pandemic-era levels of spending and take steps to reduce inflation, secure the southern border and reduce the national debt. "The nation should not have to suffer through millions of furloughed workers, national security cuts, unpaid service members and the loss of billions of dollars in economic activity because Joe Biden doesn't understand what Ohioans need. We don't want a shutdown, but we need to cut spending while outlining reforms which put America on a path to fiscal sanity." Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer has reached out to Dolan's campaign to ask whether he would support the stopgap measure passed this week in the Senate. LaRose, who served in the state senate with Dolan before becoming Secretary of State in 2019, discussed the potential government shutdown on Wednesday on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, the hard-right political personality and former aide to ex-President Donald Trump. LaRose said he opposes the Senate's temporary funding measure, without clarifying his specific reasoning, although he said he might support a "clean CR" (a temporary funding measure) that keeps the government running for a couple days to give negotiations time to continue. Some Republicans, including freshman U.S. Sen. JD Vance, have opposed the Senate plan because of the provision for Ukraine funding. Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reached out to LaRose's campaign asking for clarification on what LaRose views as a "clean CR." He also said he thinks that Republicans have ended up paying a political price for shutdowns that have happened repeatedly in recent years. "If there was good-faith negotiations happening, then that is something I would be open to. We've not always come out on the winning end of these shutdowns. Often times it's the conservatives and the Republicans who end up getting screwed in the process. So it's a tool that's on the table." Moreno, who's never held elected office and is trying to closely align himself with Trump, is the most clearly in favor of using the threat of shutting down the government as a way to negotiate specific policy goals. Moreno wrote on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, this week that Congress shouldn't agree to fund the government without "resolving the invasion at our southern border." In a statement to cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, Moreno took an indirect swipe at LaRose's comments on Bannon's show. His campaign also released a web ad Thursday highlighting his stance. "Now is not the time for Republicans to cave to the left with a clean CR or more funding for Ukraine, now is the time for Republicans to force Democrats to finish Trump's wall and secure the border," Moreno said in a statement. "My position is simple: either finally secure our wide open southern border or shut Biden's government down." While it's become a common development for Republicans, Democrats haven't been as willing to use the threat of a government shutdown to try to force their policy priorities, although some progressive party members, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris, attempted to do so in 2018, tying their budget votes to immigration issues. In 2019, the longest government shutdown in history came about as a result of a fight between congressional Democrats and then-President Donald Trump over funding for a proposed border wall that Trump wanted to build. Eventually, Trump agreed to end the shutdown by signing a temporary funding measure. In a call with reporters this week, Brown said a shutdown would harm federal government workers who live in Ohio and work at places like NASA Glenn in Cleveland or the Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. "Some of them will get back pay, but you're still undermining the work they do. It's inexcusable," Brown said. "...It really doesn't make sense. It's a bunch of politicians trying to score political points when they're hurting our state."

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