U.S. Government Shuts Down After President Trump Demands Funding for Border Wall

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By Rain Ji ’19

On December 22, 2018, just days before Christmas, the United States federal government shutdown began, and from January 3, there has been no sign of the federal government’s reopening. The shutdown occurred after Congress and the White House failed to pass a spending package, and could potentially drag on unless President Trump and Democratic leaders work together for a compromise.

What exactly is a government shutdown? Though it sounds rather dramatic, a government shutdown does not imply that the federal government stops functioning – specifically speaking, military, law enforcement, airports and many more departments remain functional, while nonessential government activities stop.

Major government shutdowns have occurred during Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s administrations as well. The shutdown in 2013 had many unexpected consequences including the closure of a dozen oversea American soldier cemeteries, postponal of cancer drug trials and the extreme understaffing of U.S.-Canada border.

The longest shutdown of U.S. government occurred during the Clinton administration for twenty-one days from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 5, 1996. The Republican leaders had conflicts with President Clinton over his objectives for education, the environment, Medicare, and public health.

The Carter administration faced obstacles to keep the government open. There were in total 56 Similarly, during the Reagan administration, the government had multiple shutdowns that lasted for one, two or three days.

There were three partial government shutdowns throughout 2018. Back in January 2018, the government faced a partial shutdown due to the disputes between Republicans and Democrats over the legal status of DACA.

This current shutdown has resulted in around 800000 federal employees being furloughed, which means that they are either working without pay, or laid off temporarily. Because of the major effects on federal workers, many have voiced their grievances through Twitter or labor unions. The shutdown influences more than federal employees. Garbage and human waste are piling up in Yosemite National Park, among many other national parks and famous sites.

Again, this December shutdown revolves around border security and immigration issues. When President Trump’s demand for $5.6 billion for border wall funding was supported in the House but not endorsed in the Senate, conflict ensued. The Democratic leaders are not willing to give him the funding for a physical border wall, and after various negotiations, agreed to pay the president 1.5 billion dollar for border security.

President Trump repeatedly stated the importance of a “physical wall” during cabinet meetings, and has also showed his determination to receive funding for the wall through Twitter.

On December 28, 2018, President Trump tweeted “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with.”

Again, on January 2, 2019, President Trump emphasized through Twitter that “Mexico is paying for the Wall through the new USMCA Trade Deal. Much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built. We have done a lot of work. $5.6 Billion Dollars that House has approved is very little in comparison to the benefits of National Security. Quick payback!”

President Trump met with congressional leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, in the hopes of resolving the partial government shutdown. But Trump’s determination to receive funding for the wall is at contrast with the Democrats’ wishes. In a speech given on the floor by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, he said “If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall — plain and simple” to President Trump.

The effort to negotiate and end the shutdown must come from both parties. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Trump’s response to CNN, a resolution could take “a long time.” The many negotiation talks have been fruitless.

On January 7, 2019, the third week into the government shutdown, there is little sign of compromise and reached agreement between the president and the Democrats. He threatened to declare a national emergency if his border wall plan is not fully supported. Justifying his action, Trump told CNN that “We’re looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency.” Under US law, the President has the authority during national emergency to apply necessary resources to build civil work projects that are essential to national defense. Although it is highly unlikely that he would actually declare a state of emergency, since this rhetoric is more a negotiation tactic, if he were to do so, he would face criticism of using military power to further his personal agendas.

Hopefully, this crisis would be resolved soon considering the large number of federal employees that it influences. Again, effort must be made from both sides to end this bitter duel between Democrats and Republicans.

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