Washington Divided After Government Shutdown

President Trump gives his annual State of the Union address on the House floor on February 5. During his speech, President Trump encouraged lawmakers to end political stalemate and work together.
Photo via Official White House Flickr

Legislation passed on February 14 has put another government shutdown over border security on the back burner for the rest of the fiscal year. While the issue of border security is far from over, federal workers no longer have to worry about missing another paycheck.


In an effort to prevent another government shutdown, bipartisan lawmakers met days before the February 15 deadline to hash out new border security legislation. The shutdown at the beginning of the year had negative impacts on the economy and President Trump’s approval ratings, which dropped to nearly 40% by the end of the shutdown.


President Trump signed off on the seven-bill spending package that included $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the southern border. The spending package is far from the $5.7 billion in funding that President Trump demanded during the previous shutdown. President Trump said that he claimed responsibility for the last shutdown saying, “I accepted the first one, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished because people learned during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border. I accept it. I’ve always accepted it.”


Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Richard Shelby (R-AL) told reporters, “We made some concessions, but we got some too.” Shelby also said, “this is a down payment on where the President wants to go and where we want to go with him.”


President Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to secure funding for the border wall. While that threat was met with pushback from both Democrats and Republicans, it still isn’t out of the question if the President decides to do so.


Franklin Government teacher Portia Hall hopes that President Trump won’t follow through on his threats. “I don’t think Trump understands what his [executive] power really is,” she said. “Not to the extent that others do.”
Since the start of President Trump’s presidency in 2017, there have been over 40 people in his administration who have left, been forced out of office, or have been fired. These include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was fired after the mid-term elections, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who declared his resignation a day after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.


“Trump has had two years to do something good with his presidency. All the smart people are gone and nobody is left,” Hall said. “If people tell him he’s winning then he actually believes that he is.”


Words of unity and bipartisanship are consistently echoed throughout Capitol Hill by both the President and congressional leaders. During his February 5 State of the Union Address, President Trump called on lawmakers to embrace bipartisanship and end political stalemates. “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation,” the President said. “Together, we can break decades of political stalemate… and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.”


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was skeptical of President Trump’s call for bipartisanship even before he gave his address. “If President Trump calls for a new era of bipartisanship, forgive me. We’re gonna wait to see if he’s serious this time,” said Schumer.


In December 2018, President Trump announced that the Islamic State in Syria was defeated and that he was going to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country.


“I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan… During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end,” Trump said in a series of Tweets defending his decision. “It is now time to start coming home and, after many years, spending our money wisely. Certain people must get smart!”


Trump’s decision was met with heavy resistance from the intelligence community and Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the same person who stood by the President throughout the entirety of the 35-day shutdown. McConnell passed legislation hours before the February 5 State of the Union address that put new sanctions on Syria. It also included an amendment that urged the President to maintain a military presence in Syria and Afghanistan.


“McConnell has more power than Trump because he has known how the government works and he can control what Congress votes on,” Hall said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing.”


More recently the House passed a measure, with bipartisan support, that aimed at ending US support of Saudi-backed coalition forces in Yemen’s bloody civil war. A similar resolution passed in the GOP controlled Senate with support from a few Republican senators. The bill is expected to go in front of the Senate at the end of the month and if it passes, President Trump could use his veto powers for the first time during his presidency.


Rebuttal against the President’s executive decisions and foreign policy has become more common. Republicans of the House and Senate are becoming more willing to split with their party on key issues. Hall believes the Republicans have always been “making a deal with the devil” since President Trump has taken office. “Because Trump doesn’t know what his powers are, I think he’s becoming frustrated that he can’t do what he wants.”


Hall believes that things are going to continue head downhill for President Trump and his presidency. With the possibility of the President using his powers to transfer government funds towards his border wall, she hopes that things turn out well. “I don’t know if he has the ability to process self-reflection. He’s not learning and he’s never shown the capacity to learn.

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