U.S Government In Its Longest Shutdown

Jan 16, 2019 By Aaditi P, Writer Intern
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Many of you may have heard of the incredibly long-lasting U.S government shutdown that has affected hundreds of thousands of people around the country.

Saturday, January 12 marked the longest government shutdown in history, with the previous record held by the 21-day shutdown in the winter of 1995-1996. The last record was set when the Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican-dominated Congress (led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich) sparred over federal funding for Medicare, education, and public health.

This shutdown is the result of the Democrats and Republicans’ feud over funding for the construction of the infamous wall. President Trump has been lobbying to build the wall to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the US-Mexico border. This government shutdown is affecting the federal workers, who either continue to work without pay or stay at home without pay. It has also impacted the economy of the country.

Why The Shutdown?

A large part of the federal government needs money each year to operate. The U.S Congress has the power to allocate the money through bills that are passed in the Senate and House -- these are called ‘appropriation bills’. These bills need to be approved by the President. 

The budget legislation consists of 12 appropriation bills (one for each appropriation subcommittee). October 1st marked the beginning of the new fiscal year, but Congress had only passed 5 of the 12 bills for 2019’s fiscal year. The programs that depend on the seven bills that were not funded ran on resolutions that extended the funding from the previous fiscal year.

On December 21, the extended period of funding officially came to an end. President Trump has refused to approve the funding to restart all the federal agencies until the Republican Party receives the $5 billion in funding to build his long-promised wall to divide US and Mexico.

Currently, negotiations between the House Democrats and Senate Republicans have been frozen for over three weeks. The Democrats are coming forward with various spending bills in an effort to reopen the government, but some Republicans are stubbornly refusing to budge, blaming the shutdown on the Democrats instead, and not backing off until they receive funding for the wall.

Impacts and Consequences

Nine federal departments (Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, and the Treasury), along with smaller agencies like NASA, have been impacted by the lack of funding. These departments are considered non-essential and will lose most of their staff for days, if not weeks.  

About 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed (unpaid leave) or are working without a paycheck at the current time. These include workers in the air safety industry, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)  is part of the Homeland Security Department. TSA workers are already some of the lowest-paid federal workers, and with the shutdown, many families with TSA workers are worried if they can even place meals on their table with the money they have left. TSA workers also happen to be some of the most essential workers in the transportation industry. With many calling in sick, airports have been affected and there are extremely long lines for airport security.

The Food and Drug Administration is also affected, with crucial food inspections all over the country suspended. This is putting the food we eat every day at risk. Others being impacted include scientific research, the Coast Guard, Native American communities, federal courts, and National Parks Service. 

It is ironic that the shutdown is affecting the immigration courts and enforcement. Specifically, E-Verify, a program that focuses on preventing illegal immigrants from working in the US, has been halted. This brings into question whether President Trump is making the right decision by purposely disregarding the nation’s state of crisis and holding still at an impasse with the Democrats until he gets what he wants.

Sources: NPR, CNN, NYTimes