Budgeting Stalemate Shuts Down Government

Shutdown notice at the National Mall during a sixteen day shutdown in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The third longest government shutdown in US history started on December 22, 2018 over the issue of President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall, which he has demanded be included in any funding bill to reopen the government.

On December 20, in efforts to avoid a shutdown, House lawmakers passed a temporary spending bill that included $5.7 billion for the wall and would keep the government open until February.

“I’ve made my position very clear—any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said at the signing ceremony for the farm bill on December 20. “If we don’t stand strong for our borders, then we cease to be a nation.”

That same day, in a press conference with Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi said, “The President is doing everything that he can to shut the Government down… Does he not care about the American people?… [There] is something wrong with this picture. Especially in the holiday season.”

The following day, the House spending bill failed to pass in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said that there wouldn’t be any more votes on the issue until an agreement can be made between the White House and congressional leaders.

In total, nine federal departments and other smaller agencies have been closed during the shutdown. Some federal employees are deemed “essential,” meaning that they perform work involving the “safety of human life or the protection of property” and will work throughout the furlough. Out of the 800,000 federal employees affected, roughly 400,000 of them will work without pay until an agreement can be made on Trump’s wall.

Although the GOP still maintains control over the Senate, they’re going to need Democratic votes to pass legislation, and the Democrats have been firm in their position against the wall.

A joint statement from the then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer read, “While President Trump drags the nation into Week Two of the Trump Shutdown… Democrats are taking action to lead our country out of this mess… The President is using the government shutdown to try to force an expensive and ineffective wall upon the American people.”

On New Year’s Day, President Trump invited eight high-level congressional leaders to the White House for talks on Wednesday, January 2. However, that meeting made little progress in ending the shutdown. Following that meeting, Trump reinvited lawmakers back to the White House for more talks on Friday.

The following day, Democrats gained a majority in the House and used their advantage to pass spending bills that would fully reopen the government until the end of the fiscal year. However, the Department of Homeland Security was only funded through February 8 in a short term spending bill, which did not include funding for Trump’s border wall.

Democratic lawmakers believed that their legislation would pass in the Senate because it mirrored a Senate spending bill that gained bipartisan support in December. In response to the House’s legislation, McConnell said that it wouldn’t pass in the Senate.

The two-hour long meeting on Friday made little progress towards ending the shutdown. According to Chuck Schumer, President Trump said that shutdown could last “months or even years.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it very clear that the Democrats will not cave in to the President’s requests. Additionally, Mitch McConnell has said that the Senate will only vote on legislation when an agreement is made. There is no ending in sight for the shutdown, at least not until the President and the Democrats, who now control the House, can come to a compromise.

Until then, furloughed employees will continue to go without pay, carrying the full weight of standoff in Washington.

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