Living in the Longest Government Shutdown

By Natalie Goldwasser (’22)

The record has been broken. The 35-day government shutdown was the longest in United States history. A government shutdown is a funding gap period in which there is a full or partial shutdown of government agencies. The citizens of the United States are now living in a time that will, one day, be considered an important part of history. In the future, textbooks will be opened to pages that will tell the story of the 21st shutdown, which commenced midnight of December 22, 2018, and ended January 25, 2019.

The shutdown began because of a dispute between Congress and the White House over government spending for 2019. The Trump Administration refused to sign any budget that didn’t contain $5.7 billion set aside for the construction of a wall along the southern border. “No wall, no deal,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

However, Congress has not yet ratified funding for the wall. The budget bill passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate voted against it. Rosie Alchalel (‘21) says, “It is an issue that calls for a discussion between both [Congress and the White House]. They have to be in agreement before they make choices, but I don’t think it should be causing a disturbance in daily American lives.”

The Department of Defense and other government agencies had already obtained funding for the year to come, while the economic fates of the State department and Justice department were still unknown. Workers from government institutions that weren’t funded yet were furloughed, temporarily leaving them without pay.

Over 800,000 workers did not receive payments since December 22. Many people who struggle to pay their bills and live paycheck to paycheck were heavily affected by this. Some even resorted to selling their furniture on Craigslist to be able to pay their impending bills. 420,000 of those employees still continued to go to work, while no paychecks arrived in their mail. Fortunately, the Senate passed a bill which will repay many of the workers for money they didn’t receive during the shutdown.

Employees who were not allowed to work took the issue to the streets. People protested outside the White House, hoping to catch the President’s attention. President Trump also took the issue to the streets as he visited the border and talked about his plans to build a steel wall. Trump appeared on the news standing behind bags of money, drugs, and guns, to make the point that a wall is needed to stop the influx of such items. However, as reported, most of these things have been collected at legal ports of entry along the border.

“Either we’re going to win or make a compromise,” says President Trump. “Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly. So either we’re going to have a win, make a compromise – because I think a compromise is a win for everybody- or I will declare a national emergency.” American citizens are being hurt by this matter, and so far there seems to be no Band-Aid to cover the wound.

It wasn’t until 35 days after the government had partially been shut down, that Congress and the White House reached an agreement. Currently, the government is funded for three weeks, until February 15. During this three week period of funding, Congress has tried to come up with an immigration policy acceptable to both parties, which will most likely not include all the money Trump wants for the wall. Trump has stated that if there is no money for the wall, then he will declare a national emergency or shutdown the government again.

“If Trump’s not willing to compromise, I won’t be surprised if he uses the nuclear option, and calls a state of emergency, but it will go straight to the courts and the courts will reject it,” says Dr. Carleton Cunningham who teaches AP Comparative Government at San Diego Jewish Academy. If Trump declares a national emergency, he will be able to bypass Congress and get the money for the wall. He has repeatedly announced that he will take that action if he deems it necessary, but such a move could greatly undermine his chances of being reelected.

“My gut instinct is that they won’t allow the government to shut down again,” says Dr. Cunningham. “I’d like to think that there is going to be enough pressure on Senate Republicans to persuade the President to make a deal for less money for the wall than he asked for. I don’t think Democrats are going to give much, if any, on a wall.”

Fear of what is yet to come hangs over the country. Will it be the wall, another government shutdown, or the end of this battle? 

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