Government Shutdown: Will history repeat itself?

Aaron Isaac – Anchor Staff

In the whirlwind of media coverage it can be difficult to understand the whys and hows of the government shutdown. Never fear! That’s why The Anchor is here.

On Dec. 22, the Senate failed to pass a spending bill after President Donald Trump insisted on including $5.7 billion to add fencing to the US-Mexico border. This resulted in the most recent shutdown. However, because some other spending bills had already passed and other programs are legally protected, like Social Security, only about a quarter of government operations shut down. National parks, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration were all defunded as a result of the shutdown and cutback on their inspections.

After the Democrats officially claimed the majority in the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, they offered a spending package with $1.3 billion for border security, but not for Trump’s proposed fencing.

The next day, after rejecting the spending package, Trump said he would declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress to fund the fencing. Democratic leadership later accused Trump of using “fear, not facts” over funding. Some Republicans had blamed Democrats for not addressing the issues at the southern border.

In the Senate, Democrats called for opening parts of the government which were not involved in the fencing negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take those bills to a vote because Trump would not sign them. McConnell said the votes were “absolutely pointless.”

After Jan. 12, this shutdown became the longest in history. Approximately 800,000 federal employees missed their paychecks. According to The New Yorker, thousands of government employees went to food banks to get their next meal, and even formed a protest against the shutdown in the halls of the U.S Senate. Agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, began to consider not paying their workers until the government reopened.

On Jan. 13, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested Trump should temporarily reopen the government without the border funding. Trump rejected that offer, but later offered to extend temporary protections to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients in exchange for the border fencing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the deal and Democrats criticized Trump for offer protections he had previously revoked.

Under increasing pressure from Congress, federal employees, who were on track to miss their second paycheck, and hours after air traffic controllers called in sick in mass, effectively shutting down airlines, the government was reopened.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the shutdown slowed down economic growth. Much of the lost output will be recovered over time, and although workers are set to receive back pay, the CBO estimates around $3 billion, 0.02 percent of Gross Domestic Product, will not be recovered.

There was a also a political cost to the shutdown as well. A Gallup poll shows Republican favorability has dropped from 45 percent in September to 37 percent near the end of January. Meanwhile, support for Democrats remained still (from 44 to 45 points).

Currently Congress is continuing negotiations, until Feb. 15th to keep government open. However, Trump continues to threaten a national emergency if a settlement cannot be reached and Democrats do not seem willing to provide the funds for the fencing. What happens next is uncertain, but it is possible we see another shutdown after Feb. 15th.