The partial US government shutdown caused by an impasse over Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border is still on after the Republican majority in the Senate was unable to rally support for Trump’s wall, after House Republicans passed an 11th-hour wall funding bill on 20 December.
Sadly, the partial shutdown has greatly disrupted some government operations leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay. The federal government was partially shutdown after lawmakers could not reach an agreement about funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
The shutdown has now lasted into the new year (2019), with no indication of when it will end. The over 29 days shutdown appears to be the longest government shutdown ever — and its effects are becoming increasingly apparent.
What’s a Government Shutdown?
A government shutdown occurs when nonessential government offices can no longer remain open due to lack of funding. The lack of funding usually occurs when there is a delay in the approval of the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The shutdown remains in effect until parties can reach a compromise and the budget bill get passed. During a government shutdown, many federally run operations will be inactive.
Some organizations may still stay open by running on cash reserves, but once these funds run out, they will also close. Any office which does not receive funding from Congress would continue to operate during the shutdown.
Meanwhile, as of January 21, 2019, the shutdown is in its 31st day. It is the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, having surpassed the 21-day shutdown of 1995–1996.
In January 2019, the House—now controlled by a Democratic majority—voted to approve the appropriations bill without wall funding that had previously passed the Senate unanimously.
On December 6, Congress passed a second continuing resolution to December 21, to give more time for negotiations on Trump’s proposed border wall, which had been delayed due to the death and state funeral of George H. W. Bush.
Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse than when it began, with President Donald Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he’d billed as a compromise.
Trump on Sunday, January 20 branded House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi a “radical” and said she was acting “irrationally.” The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservatives accused him of embracing “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.
Trump has continued to maintain that he will veto any bill that does not fund the wall, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the Senate from considering any appropriations legislation that Trump will not support, including the bill that had previously passed.
Cause of the US Government Shutdown
The cause of the shutdown is as a result of the dispute over funding for Trump’s border wall, the one Mexico was supposed to pay for.
Donald Trump has been seeking $5 billion for the wall; Democrats have been offering $1.3 billion for border security. A deal in this case would not be difficult to envision, as the numbers involved are dwarfed by the $3.8 trillion budget.
The shutdown began after Trump and Democrats failed to come to an agreement on whether to allocate funds to a wall on the US southern border.
The president requested $5.7bn be added to new federal spending legislation that needed to be passed before the previous spending expired on December 21.
The Democrats vehemently opposed the demand but after Trump refused to give it up, the shutdown went into effect the following day.
Meanwhile, during Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Trump promised to build a wall along the Mexico–United States border for which Mexico would pay. The president of Mexico rejected the idea of providing any funding for a U.S. border wall.
In 2018, Trump requested $18 billion in federal funding for some 700 miles (1,100 km) of barrier on the border, mostly to replace 654 miles (1,053 km) of aging fence built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
On December 25, 2018, Trump reversed course, suggesting that he might accept 500 to 550 miles (800 to 890 km) of either mostly refurbished barrier (rather than new barriers in locations that did not previously have them) by November 2020. Trump’s proposals and public statements on the wall have shifted widely over time, with varied proposals as to the design, material, length, height, and width of a wall.
However, in September 2018, Congress passed two “minibus” appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2019 federal budget, which began on October 1, 2018.
These bills combined five of the 12 regular appropriations bills covering 77% of federal discretionary funding, and included a continuing resolution until December 7 for the remaining agencies.
Donald Trump’s Bid
President Donald Trump spoke about the shutdown recently, asserted that it will continue until his demand for funds to construct a U.S-Mexico border wall are met.
He said “I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Trump said in the Oval Office after a video conference with U.S. troops, who are stationed overseas.
On January 8 in a press conference, a reporter asked Trump if he was considering declaring a national emergency, to which Trump replied, “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want” and suggested that he could declare an emergency.
After this, Trump repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency to unilaterally order wall construction without congressional authorization.
An attempt by Trump to invoke emergency powers would almost certainly prompt a lengthy legal challenge in court. Democrats responded that Trump lacked the authority to declare a national emergency; Representative Adam Schiff called it a “non-starter”.
On December 11, Trump held a televised meeting with Speaker-designee Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office and asked them to support an appropriation of $5.7 billion for funding of a border wall. They refused, resulting in an argument between Trump and both Congressional leaders.
During the contentious discussion, Trump said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security … I will be the one to shut [the government] down. I’m not going to blame you for it … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.” Schumer replied, “We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute.”
Three days later, it was reported that Trump was willing to sign a bill with no funding for a border wall that delayed a government shutdown into 2019 and the new Congress. On December 18, following a meeting with Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the government would not shut down on December 22 and that Trump was “flexible” over funding for a border wall. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby commented that the most likely resolution was a bill that funded the government until early February.
Federal Workers Groan in Hardship
Federal workers and contractors have been forced to stay home or work without pay, many of which are already experiencing mounting stress from the Government Shutdown affecting hundreds of thousands of them. The disruption is starting to pinch citizens who count on a variety of public services.
No doubt, 2019 began with an economic thud for some of these federal workers. This is however apparent that they are going through troubled times and global growth seems to be plummeting.
The US government shut down which began on the December 22 has affected more than 800,000 federal workers in nine different departments, as well as several federal agencies. This includes the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury.
As America’s longest-ever government shutdown continues, federal workers face an uncertain financial future. some workers are relying on yard sales, food banks and loans to make ends meet, others have turned to crowdfunding – raising money through online donations.
More than 1,500 crowdfunding campaigns have been set up on GoFundMe since the shutdown began, a company spokesperson said, raising more than $300,000 (£232,000).