On January 12, the current government shutdown entered its 22nd day, securing its place as the longest government shutdown in United States history.
The previous longest shutdown occurred in December of 1995 during the Clinton administration, and dragged into January of 1996. As the current shutdown continues further into the new year, it carries heavy implications for federal workers, government functions and all citizens who depend on these services.
An estimated 800,000 federal employees have been impacted by the shutdown. About 380,000 non-critical employees have been furloughed without pay, while the remaining 420,000 must work without pay as the impasse between the president and the split Congress continues. While Congress passed a bill to provide these workers with back-pay once one the shutdown ends, many are still struggling to make ends meet in the interim.
The politics surrounding the shutdown go back to August 2018, when the Senate approved a $850 billion spending bill for Fiscal Year 2019. This bill kept the government running at current spending levels until December, putting off debate on governmental spending until after the 2018 midterm elections.
President Trump met with Democratic congressional leaders to negotiate key budget points, which included a wall along the United States-Mexico border, a platform that Trump heavily campaigned on. Trump continually threatened the shutdown the government if Democrats did not include $5.7 billion to build his wall. Democrats attempted to negotiate, offering $1.3 billion to continue current border-security funding levels. However, President Trump refused the offer, and the government went into a partial shutdown on Dec. 21.
Attempts to negotiate further to end the shutdown have been met with resistance by the President. He threatened to keep the government shutdown for “months or even years” to receive funding for his border wall, and the president says that he is “proud” of his actions.
“I’m very proud of doing what I’m doing,” said President Trump during a televised Oval Office meeting. “I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it ‘doing what you have to do for the benefit and for the safety of our country.’”
President Trump cited border security as the driving force behind his proposal for a border wall. In a televised address from the Oval Office, Trump spoke about a, “growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” However, apprehensions along the border are now at an all time low, reaching their lowest point in April 2017.
On Jan. 15, Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a bill passed by the Democratic House to reopen the federal government. For weeks, McConnell, who controls the votes on the Senate floor, has shouldered the blame for the shutdown on Democrats, saying that he would not bring legislation to the floor regarding the shutdown unless President Trump and the Democrats reach a deal on border security.
“The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States and our Democratic colleagues,” said McConnell in The Hill.
“Here in the Senate my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense border experts, with federal workers and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the Speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House,” said McConnell from the Senate floor.
Senate Democrats see McConnell as an end to the shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer believes that if bills to end the shutdown were allowed to come to the floor, would receive a “significant,” “veto-proof” majority.
“There’s only one person who can help America break through this gridlock: Leader McConnell. For the past month Leader McConnell has been content to hide behind the president, essentially giving him a veto over what comes to the floor of the Senate,” said Schumer in The Hill.