The Who, What, Why, and How of the Government Shutdown
By Kate Clemenz
National Parks faced sanitation issues, TSA workers were calling in sick, and the FDA stopped regular food inspections. As of Jan. 25, the government had been shut down for 35 days, surpassing the previous record to become the longest shutdown in United States history.
The government shuts down when Congress and the White House cannot agree on a budget. When this happens, non-essential government programs are temporarily closed and their employees are furloughed, or laid off temporarily. In this instance, the government was shut down because of a dispute between Democrats in Congress and President Donald Trump. When negotiating the budget for the 2019 fiscal year, both parties agreed upon a Senate Homeland Security bill that set aside $1.6 billion for border security. On Dec. 11, 2018, Trump had a meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in which he asked them to set aside $5.7 billion to fund a border wall. They refused. Following this meeting, Trump said he was flexible over border wall funding. However, after some criticism, he reversed this position and refused to sign any bill that did not include funding for a border wall. After unsuccessful attempts at negotiation, the government was officially shut down on Dec. 20, 2018.
Although it was only a partial government shutdown, the effects rippled across different parts of the government and country. EPA pollution inspectors were not working and some border patrol agents have sued the Trump administration for being forced to work without pay. Hundreds of thousands of government employees missed their first paychecks on Friday, Jan. 11, and continue starting to face the effects of the shutdown. According to CNN, many people who rely on the government are hurting as well: WIC, a program that provides food assistance to more than 7 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and young children, only has funding to last through January; food programs, health care, and paycheck funding remained in doubt for Native American tribes; and those who have missed their immigration court dates due to the shutdown are being given new dates years from now.
Despite President Trump’s recent extension of government funding through Feb. 15, a permanent deal has yet to be reached. To reopen the government, the Senate, House Representatives, and Trump must reached an agreement on border security funding. Trump seems unwilling to budge on his position, leading many people to wonder what will permanently resolve the crisis. The president has discussed the possibility of declaring a national emergency, which would force the government to reopen and could provide him funds for the border wall. However, if the Democrats want a solution that will please their base, they must not give in to Trump’s demands. Some Republicans, including vulnerable Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Greg Walden of Oregon, are getting uneasy and seem to be more willing to discuss negotiations to reopen the government. As the shutdown drags on, more and more people will be affected, and there will be a greater push for an end to the shutdown- which could make both parties, as well as Trump, more open to a new bill.
Lindsey Robison, an employee at the Social Security Administration, is lucky enough to have a fully-funded department. Her job is to write decisions for Administrative Law Judges, and there has not been much of a difference in her department. However, she said that “given the number of shutdowns that have occurred over the last few years, it seems like this is something we will have to be concerned about in the future” when asked about how an even-longer shutdown could impact her department. Robison is a federal employee who has not been greatly impacted by the shutdown but there are hundreds of thousands of others who have. If the shutdown continues, the missing paychecks could continue to hurt their families.
No matter how this shutdown finally ends, it will certainly be interesting to watch. Border security is a very controversial issue and the eventual decision has the potential to greatly impact the nation. Regardless of the decision that Congress and the White House eventually agree upon, it will be a historical one.