Written by Emily Leclerc
As of Jan. 25, the U.S. government will have been partially shut down for 35 days. Before this, the longest shutdown in history was 21 days in 1995 under President Bill Clinton. This government closure easily broke that record and will likely hold the title for longest government shutdown for many decades to come.
Dec. 22 marked the beginning of the current closure and the start of the longest shutdown in America’s history. At the end of each year, new budgets are decided for each government agency. Both the House and the Senate must vote in agreement of the budgets in order to pass them and provide funding for the agencies over the next year.
Several of the budget bills were passed by Oct. 1 of 2018. Others were given extensions in order to allow for further negotiations. One of the bills given an extension was the one that contained President Trump’s request for funding for a wall on our border with Mexico. As the deadline of the extensions approached in mid-December of last year, Congress had still not reached an agreement over the wall funding as well as several other budget bills. When the extensions expired and there were no decisions made over the remaining budget, the government was forced into partial shutdown.
America has experienced government closures before, but none of this magnitude. On Jan. 11 of this year, over 800,000 federal workers missed their first paycheck. Hundreds of government-funded establishments, such as the Smithsonian and the National Zoo, have closed their doors until further notice. TSA agents are calling in sick in record numbers in order to avoid working without pay. The Miami International Airport has been forced to close several terminals early because they simply do not have the staff to keep them open.
The issue we are facing now is that there is no end in sight for this closure. President Trump remains stubbornly fixated on the 5.7 billion dollars he has requested for his wall and has so far been unwilling to end the shutdown unless he is provided with those funds. As a Republican leader over a Republican majority Senate, Trump has the power to end the shutdown as his party would likely follow his lead. Compromises have been presented to President Trump by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders, for about half the amount of money he requested in order to reopen the government, and they have all been shot down. It appears as though the government will remain in shutdown until Trump is given what he desires or someone else caves under the pressure.
Parker Messick, a Roanoke College alumni and current Democratic candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, fears that this shutdown has a potential to last for months.
“President Trump is unconcerned with the backlash he is facing for keeping the government closed for this extent of time. So, he feels little pressure to end it. I don’t think that it will end due to the President’s hand either. It appears likely that the Republicans in Congress, facing increasing moral and political pressure, will eventually decide to pass through the budgets previously decided on, allow the President to veto them, and then overturn the President’s veto in order to reopen the government. That would be unprecedented as no government shutdown in our history has ended without the president being on board,” said Messick.
If this shutdown were to drag on for several months or even a year, hundreds of thousands of government workers would be left essentially jobless along with many other dire consequences. Only time will tell how this ongoing political crisis resolves itself.