Government Shutdown Explained

There have been no shortages of protests in D.C. from workers demanding that the government reopen. Photo credit to USA Today.

There have been no shortages of protests in D.C. from workers demanding that the government reopen. Photo credit to USA Today.

Aislinn Connon, Editor-in-Chief

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The government shutdown that lasted throughout late December and January became the longest one in United States history on January 12, 2019. It is impossible to turn on the television or go online without being bombarded by stories of workers suffering because of the shutdown. Although it ended on January 25, President Trump is threatening to shut it down again if a compromise cannot be met. Since it still affects the country and was a rather historic situation, here is almost everything Americans should know about it.

Firstly, what is a government shutdown? It sounds self-explanatory, and in many ways, it is. Many agencies and organizations across the nation are provided funding by Congress, and every bill from Congress to these agencies must be signed by the President. If the President feels the government should be shut down, he can refuse to sign the bills, and the agencies will not receive their money. Some of the agencies that require funding from Congress are NASA, the Transportation Department, the IRS, the State Department, and the National Park Service.

These agencies were almost completely paralyzed and most employees worked with no pay. This is because the government is legally allowed to force someone to work during a shutdown if it feels their job is important enough, as is the case with the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, and the State Department. Other workers are on furlough, which is essentially being laid off for an extended period of time. This is why national parks, monuments, museums, and research centers have been closed. The FDA also halted food inspections, but they did resume inspections on food that is considered to be “high risk”.

At midnight on December 22, 2018, the second shutdown of Donald Trump’s presidency went into effect. Why did the President choose to shut down the government in the first place? As most people are aware, a pivotal aspect of Trump’s campaign was the idea of an extensive wall along the border of Mexico. Since the Democrats took the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, getting the wall is going to be almost impossible. Shutting down the government is Trump’s way of demanding that the Democrats strike a deal with him on the wall, and as expected, Democrats are reluctant to fund a wall that is expected to cost approximately $5.7 billion.

In the midst of the shutdown, President Trump was caught in a Twitter argument between the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has repeatedly called Trump out for closing the government over something like a border wall, and Trump has fired back with accusations of it being the Democrats’ fault that the shutdown is ongoing, due to their unwillingness to spend money on said wall. As a result of this confrontation, Pelosi attempted to persuade Trump to postpone his State of the Union address—which is held in the House of Representatives chamber—until the shutdown was over. Even though the shutdown has now ended, it is unlikely Trump will give the address on January 29, which was the original date.

Keep in mind that these are only the basics, and that this is an extremely complicated situation. JPMorgan has estimated that the country lost about $1.5 billion a week because of the shutdown, or about $6 billion in total. Only time will tell if the government will try its best to move on from this incident, or if the country will be trapped in the same dilemma in a few weeks.