The Real Reasons Behind the Longest Shutdown in American History
By: Maxwell Velikodny
The United States Federal Government shutdown started midnight EST on December 22, 2018, until January 25, 2019, and has been dubbed the longest shutdown in American History. How could this have happened?
Some believe it was because of the Republicans’ wish to fund the border wall, while others think it was due to the Democrats’ insistence on an immigration deal. The situation, however, is much more complicated, which is why it is difficult to blame a single party.
One of the main reasons the government shut down was because of the divisive issue of funding the southern border. Republicans wanted at least $5.7 billion to pay for a wall, which most Democrats were staunchly against.
In September, President Trump announced he would end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA is a federal government program that allows illegal immigrant children to stay in the US and holds off on deportation hearings.
Democrats quickly acted to find a compromise, but it was to no avail. Democrats are now trying to leverage their voting power in the border wall funding for immigration reform.
Long-term budget reform has also been long overdue. The fiscal year began on October 1, but no legislation was passed to create a full-year budget for each federal department. Instead, legislators have been relying on a series of “stopgap spending bills known as continuing resolutions,” according to The Atlantic.
“The [budget] caps deal is very, very close and I think Dems are holding out on the [budget] caps deal because of the DACA negotiations,” said Former House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Because there is no clear set budget for each department, Republicans and Democrats have been fighting over the proportions for defense spending and domestic spending.
Republicans known as defense hawks want more defense spending. When they attempted to attach a full-year spending bill to a stopgap bill, Republicans rejected it “on the grounds it would be too easy for Democrat Senators to reject,” as reported by The Atlantic.
Republican’s rejection of the full-year spending bill caused a split in the Republican party which prevented a united front in the shutdown fight. “When four Republican senators refused to vote for a 30-day continuing resolution, [it undermined] the party’s effort to pin blame for a shutdown solely on Democrats,” mentioned BBC News.
The Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is another program that needs to be reauthorized but has simply been extended for another six months. Democrats want to reauthorize CHIP but have shown more interest in immigration reform.
Lastly, Trump’s unpredictability and lack of clarity when it comes to his stances and plans have also made it difficult for his party to come up with a solution. If Trump were clearer, creating a strategy would be easier for Republicans.
All of these tensions have caused more disagreements and less compromise.
The eventual shutdown of the government boils down to the disagreement between parties on budgeting, immigration reform, fiscal spending, reauthorization of CHIP, and Trump’s unpredictability.
On January 25, 2019, Republicans and Democrats decided to reopen the government and discuss compromises for these issues. If no agreements were to be reached by February 15, 2019, the government would inevitably shut down again.
On February 15, 2019, the last day the government was to be left open before the next shut down, an agreement was made between Democrats and Republicans. The Washington Post reports, “Congress agreed to $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new fencing along the border — and included provisions that might eventually limit the administration’s ability to enforce its immigration policies.”
For President Trump, this was a defeat because he was offered more in December without any provisions attached. He was also blamed for the government shutdown and lost a lot of credibility.
President Trump recently declared a national emergency at the southern border to attain additional funds to build the border wall. Trump has received a lot of backlash for this declaration, and many people and states are now taking legal action.
Trump knows he will get a bad ruling but hopes to appeal it at the U.S Supreme Court and get a better decision.