Government Shutdown Smackdown

Alex Edgar, Editor In Chief

On December 22nd at midnight, the third partial government shutdown of 2018 and first shutdown of 2019 began. The major point of contention for this shutdown was the inclusion, in the portion of the budget that still needed approval, of approximately 5.6 billion dollars in funding for President Trump’s border security wall. Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate wouldn’t give in to President Trump’s demands. This left  the President and the House and Senate Republicans short of the votes they needed to pass the budget. Shortly after, the Democrats came back with their own plan, a budget that almost exactly mirrored the Republicans, but left out the funding for the wall, to be argued on a later date. The Republicans in Congress voted against the plan. The Democrats plan, which was created to avoid a prolonged, costly, and useless government shutdown, wasn’t backed by the Republican party because they knew the President would refuse to sign any budget that didn’t include the border wall funding. In the midst of the government shutdown, President Trump began floating around the idea of declaring a national emergency to build the wall, saying “I can do it if I want,” though provided few details. President Trump also told the press that “there are a lot of things that can happen with DACA if Democrats want to discuss it,” in an attempt to broker a deal to end the shutdown.

After weeks of back and forth between the Democrat and Republican parties six Republican Senators voted, on January 24th, to support the Democratic plan to reopen the government through February 8th. This was done to allow for more time to discuss their issues without hurting the American people. Though the vote did not acquire the 60 vote majority it needed to pass, it succeed in sending a clear message to President Trump that even his own party was cracking in its support for him. With Trump feeling the pressure intensifying and his own supporters drifting away, on Friday January 25th he announced a new deal, to reopen the government for 3 weeks, that didn’t include  any of the border wall money which was the reason he started this shutdown. This new deal is almost exactly the same as the plan the Democrats proposed in the beginning of the shutdown. Soon after Trump announced the deal on Friday afternoon, the House and Senate quickly passed legislation following the guidelines of his deal, which allowed the funding of the government until February 15th. Trump signed it later that night.

Although the shutdown has ended for now, the short and long term ramifications of the shutdown will continue to be felt. The government shutdown has affected over 800,000 government employees. An estimated 420,000 employees reported to work without pay, many of which had holiday vacation days cancelled due to federal law. In addition, an estimated 380,000 employees were furloughed, 1 National Zoo (D.C.) was closed, and 19 Smithsonian museums (NYC and D.C.) were closed as well. Some of the government organizations that were at least partially shut down were the FBI, TSA, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Commerce, NASA, and Forests and National Parks Service.

An initial concern of those affected by the shutdown was whether or not they would receive  back pay for either their unpaid hours or furloughed time off. Federal workers who went without pay during the shutdown got full back pay after the government reopened. Another concern caused by the government shutdown was the lack of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly known as food stamps. Most states decided to release February’s SNAP credits to their customers by January 20th so they could legally use their emergency funding and keep their customers fed. Although the government employees are feeling the effects of the shutdown, the situation is just as bad if not worse for people contracted to work for the government. Since they aren’t salaried government employees, they won’t receive back pay for the days they didn’t work (or worked without pay) once the government reopens. In addition to the temporary inaccessibility of federal student aid, the government shutdown has lost the IRS an estimated $2 billion in tax revenue, with much of the lost revenue being unable to be recouped, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Not only has the shutdown affected millions of American citizens, but it has also negatively affected the country as a whole. The five-week partial government shutdown cost the U.S. economy about $3 billion in economic activity that won’t be recovered, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released January 28th.

On Thursday February 14th, President Trump announced his plans to deal with his border wall funding. He begrudgingly signed a massive congressional spending bill that includes just $1.4 billion for border security, less than a quarter of his last demand, in addition to everything else previously included in the bill. After what many have called a Presidential pushover, President Trump declared a national emergency to unlock Pentagon funds he can unilaterally steer to a border wall, as well as use money from other projects. The President and his supporters cite the southern border “crisis” as the reason for the national emergency, claiming there’s an “invasion” of drugs and undocumented immigrants. Republicans have expressed concerns over the precedent his executive overreach sets for a Democratic president in the future. Meanwhile multiple legal challenges have already been filed against the national emergency declaration. The Democrat controlled Senate has already begun working on getting a measure passed that would block President Trump’s national emergency declaration. The outcome of this battle over border control has yet to be seen, but it promises to have long term effects on our country and the world.