A Breakdown on the Shutdown


Brittney Ferguson, Staff Writer

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As of January 12, 2019, the ongoing partial government shutdown has made history as the longest government shut down in the history of the United States of America (US), surpassing that of 21 days in 1995 under 42nd President Bill Clinton.

The shutdown began as a standoff between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over the funding for Trump’s campaign promised border wall. President Trump has demanded 5.7 billion dollars in funding be allocated to a border wall on the United States southern border between the US and Mexico.

The shutdown began on December 22, 2018, the date the last of the money allocated to government spending was expected to run out. To prepare for this, the Senate is expected to pass a new spending bill to keep the government running. This bill would only require a majority vote. However, as the Republican Party holds the majority in the Senate (with 51 members of Congress), President Trump can use this to his advantage to get other bills passed, i.e., funding for a border wall.

To get funding for this border wall, President Trump needs 60 senate votes. Why 60? Originally, all bills passed through Congress required 60 votes as the point of the Senate was to promote bipartisanship, however, in 1974 this process was partly dismissed for bills considered ‘reconciliations.’ Reconciliations require a separate legislative process for certain budgetary bills, of which spending for a Border wall is not included. This means President Trump would need at least 9 Democratic votes to receive funding.

In a bipartisan meeting before the shutdown, the Democratic leaders expressed their opposition to the border wall. President Trump responded that he would be “proud to shut down the government“ to pressure the congressional Democrats to agree to fund his campaign promise, bringing about the longest shutdown in government History as congressional and house democrats refuse to concede these demands.

President Trump has come up with an alternative path to building this border wall: declaring a national emergency. A national emergency would allow the president to bypass Congress’s constitutional authority and instead have the military to fund his border wall. Declaring a national emergency is not as rare as people may think. Congress passed the National Emergency Act in 1976, however, the definition and severity of the word ‘emergency’ was never clearly defined. Bill Clinton declared 17 national emergencies in his presidency and Barack Obama declared 13. This does not mean President Trump can declare a national emergency unchallenged. There will be legal push back from the Supreme Court. This is why the Trump administration is looking into the legal implications of declaring a national emergency, as they will need to make certain that it is constitutional. Not only the Supreme Court, but a national emergency can also be opposed by Congress. However, this is less likely to happen, as there is a Republican majority, ruled by Mitch McConnell, who decides what enters the legislative floor and is an avid supporter of the border wall.

Aside from the impact within Congress, this shutdown has put 800,000 federal employees out of their jobs. This is because the partial government shutdown means that all federally employed workers are unable to be paid and all non-essential workers are temporarily laid off as a result. Essential workers are forced to continue to work without pay. These employees include all workers in the United States Department of Defense, i.e., Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and Secret Service.

As of right now, there seems to be no end in sight.