What is a Government Shutdown?

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by Maggie Peterson

The United States government is now in shutdown until a spending agreement or budget to fund it can be approved by both the House and the Senate. On January 19, Democrats and a handful of Republicans in the Senate voted down a ‘continuing resolution’ bill that would keep the government funded for a short time until a budget could be agreed upon between the two parties in Congress, as well as by President Trump. The short-term funding bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives, did not include immigration protections wanted by many Senate Democrats. Most bills that pass through the Senate require at least 60 votes in their favor, requiring the process to become bipartisan; Republicans hold a 51-member majority, and several Democrats had said that they would not support a bill that does not include protections for children brought the United States illegally as children, also known as ‘dreamers,’ under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democrats have also pushed for long-term funding on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as CHIP, which provides health care to millions of children in low-income families; lawmakers were under intense pressure from activists and left-wing voters to reject any spending bill that does not include these provisions.

A coalition of their Republicans in Congress had previously offered a deal a few days before the shutdown began: protections for DACA recipients in exchange for funding of President Trump’s proposed border wall and additional border security, restrictions on immigrants being allowed to bring their families into the country, and an end to a program that allowed a certain number of people from a country to immigrate to America. This deal was thrown into jeopardy after Trump administration aides voiced their displeasure with it and the president declared it “dead” on Twitter; Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, met with the president on the day of the shutdown to negotiate and to restate the terms of a possible deal involving DACA protections and border wall funding, but left without any fruitful agreement, with Senator Schumer stating that “Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with jello. It’s next to impossible.” The minority leader also said that he “reluctantly” put the president’s proposed border wall on the table in the meeting “in exchange for strong DACA protections,” but Trump backed out of the deal.

So what happens now? The government cannot be reopened until funding is approved, and several Republicans have stated that immigration deals will not be negotiated until the shutdown is over, so this could go on for many days, if not longer. Groups of senators from each party continue to meet and discuss possible solutions, and a vote is scheduled for the early hours of January 22 in the Senate on funding. Until a deal is reached, national parks and monuments will be shuttered, all government employees deemed ‘nonessential’ will be temporarily sent home. Some long-term disaster recovery, including that from last year’s hurricanes and the recent California wildfires, will pause. Many basic government functions will continue, including mail delivery by the Postal Service, which is self-funded. The investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia spearheaded by Robert Mueller will continue, as it is funded by an indefinite amount of money set aside for use by the investigatory team. Those in the U.S. military will continue to be paid unless the shutdown extends past February 1, when they would not be compensated until an agreement had been reached, or if Congress agreed to cover their pay costs before the shutdown ended.

“White House” by angela n. is licensed under CC-by-2.0