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CWA # 80, 20 January 2019

United States
Trump’s Shutdown: Five Things to Know

  Abhishrut Singh

Trump is adamant on having a border wall, while the Democrats want him to reopen the government before they arrive over the discussion of border security.

Research Intern
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
& Law Student
National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi 

 

The three magical words "Build the wall" which steered President Mr Trump's 2016 US election victory has changed its meaning to "security humanitarian crises", to quote his own words. On December 22, President Trump and Democratic politicians hit an impasse over the President's request for $5.6 billion to fund the US-Mexico border. The wall, which is now apparently to be made of steel with a pass-through to look, and the issue has been facing vehement opposition by the Democrats.

 

1. Shutdown, and how it comes about?

A shutdown is a circumstantial crisis where federal workers have to work without pay who are deemed essential. A worker to be deemed essential depends upon the federal agency and workers who are categorized as non-essential are furloughed, or placed on temporary leave. Essential functions such as airport security and law enforcement will continue to be performed. The shutdown lasts until new funding is approved by the Congress and signed into law by the President. 

The rambling federal institution that keeps numerous parts of the American life murmuring is financed by a yearly spending set and passed by the Congress. The President must sign or veto the so-called appropriations bills, which spread out how government offices may spend their cash in the following financial year. When the Congress fails to pass or the President refuses to sign budget legislation before a spending deadline, whatever portion of government lacks funding “shuts down”.

The history of shutdowns has become increasingly political in recent years and has been used by both parties as a way to extract concessions on legislative priorities. The last one happened during  Obama’s tenure over “Obamacare” which lasted for 16 days. Before it, the longest one was that of 21 days in Mr Bill Clinton's government.

 

2. Factors leading to the Shutdown

Almost every government shutdown in the history of government is nothing but a tug of war between parties where either of the party refuses to budge, and hence the endless blame game continues. However, the majority of Americans blame the White House for the present impasse between the parties, as in December at the last minute, the President pulled his support for a spending plan that had already passed the Senate, precipitating the shutdown.

Historically, if a party is demanding a policy change which takes a toll on the funding which could, in turn, help the government to run appropriately and efficiently, then that party is to be held responsible for the impasse as it is putting their demands in the upper stage rather than what the nation needs at that crucial hour. Today, that is Trump. He wants the border wall in exchange for opening the government.

 

3. Implications of the Shutdown on the People

Nine out of the fifteen federal departments including Agriculture, Transportation, and the Interior, and homeland security have been affected by the shutdown. Apart from 800,000 federal going out of pay, major cries are coming up from food assistance program affecting 38 million people of the US Residents who are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that they may have their assistance disrupted in March. 

Public parks, museums have not been opened for the public, costing a lot of revenue loss the United States, amounting to approximately 3.6 billion as of 11th of January. Countrymen have to take up high rates loans just for sustaining the basic needs like rents, food etc, some of which are high as 30-40%. Hundreds of immigrant court hearings have been cancelled, exacerbating an existing backlog of more than a million cases. Hundreds of government scientists say they will miss crucial opportunities to exchange research and ideas because the shutdown is stopping them from attending major scientific conferences about technology, space exploration and climate change.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has stopped many of its services. Transportation Security Administration employees have been increasingly calling out sick at airports while those at the Environmental Protection Agency are planning a “national sick day” to protest against the shutdown.

 

4. The Differing Opinions

Reportedly, the bearer of the mantle of the shutdown, Trump stuck to his guns admitting he is very proud in doing what he is doing, he is doing what is needed to be done for strengthening the border security and no compromises are to be seen or expected in the near future unless funds needed for the wall have been accordingly approved and allocated. Trump also indicated that he could declare “national emergency” in order to achieve what he wants, what his great nation needs. National emergency, which historically is to be done by getting consent by congressional leaders, will be a move that would very likely bring about legal challenges. 

 

5. Resolving the Impasse

The United States is presently facing an impasse because of a difference in opinions and priorities. The President is adamant on having a border wall, while the Democrats want him to reopen the government before they arrive over the discussion of border security. Just as Trump has already hinted, the current shutdown could last for even a year. Shutdowns like these have a large impact on the lives of the people and subsequently, the political pressure might bend the makers of the law. However, it is noteworthy that on September 30, 2019, the spending bills for the government would expire.

The possible outcomes for an end to the shutdown can be three-fold. First, the President may give in to the cries of the country and reopen the government. Second, the Democrats may cave in and agree to some or major demands of Trump for the border wall. Lastly, the Republicans leave Trump's back and join forces with the Democrats and pass a spending bill having a veto-proof majority, and fund the government sans Trump's approval or involvement. The end of this painful government shutdown would arrive only when someone gives in to the demands of the other, or there would seem no way out of this bottleneck.

 

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