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Two Months and One Shutdown

by Ryan McCoy

Two months into 2018, and we have seen one government shut down, while another may be on its way.

Congress instituted the current budget process in 1976. Since then, there have been 18 government shutdowns with the most recent one making 19. The shutdown of 2018 began on Jan. 20, exactly one year after President Trump took office, and it ended Jan. 22.  The Senate voted to fund the government temporarily, until Feb. 8.

So why exactly did the government shutdown? The simplest explanation is that Congress was unable to pass this year’s spending bill. Beyond this, there are a couple of deeper reasons for the shutdown.  

These reasons center around the Republican and Democratic views on immigration. The main tension was over DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival.) The Democrats wanted the spending bill to include protections for the undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children (DREAMers) to protect them from deportation.

The pressure on this issue began building in September when President Trump decided to end DACA. The program gives work permits to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children as well as protecting them from deportation. The President then called on Congress to pass DACA legislation. However, no progress was being made of the issue, and the Democrats feared the Republicans were not going to give the issue serious consideration without being forced.

The Democrats came out saying that they would not consider a spending bill without these protections. Therefore, the supermajority of 60 votes needed to pass the spending bill was impossible to obtain as it would require nine Democratic votes. Sunday night, Republicans offered to fund the government for two and a half weeks, and if no DACA deal is reached, then an immigration bill will be proposed. The Democrats accepted.    

While a shutdown only affects “nonessential” activities, and this shutdown in particular occurred over a weekend, when most federal employees are off anyway, a shutdown is not a good thing. The implications are very broad. NASA nearly completely shuts down, with scientists not even being able to work on their experiments until after the shutdown. Another implication is that the IRS can’t assist with taxes. One of the biggest implications is that while the government is shutdown, the military will not be paid until the shutdown ends, however, they will still be reporting for duty. As previously mentioned, the most recent shutdown only lasted over a weekend, but if it went on any longer it could have been much worse.      

It is unlikely that the government will shut down again. The bill is nearly guaranteed to pass the Senate. The House is more complicated. Members of the House Freedom Caucus do not like the spending increase or the inclusion of a debt limit extension. The House Freedom Caucus only has 36 members, and it unlikely that any other Republicans will join them. Many House Democrats are threatening to vote against the deal unless Speaker of the House Paul Ryan agrees to vote on the Dreamer protections.  

After this bill passes, Congress must pass appropriation bills by March 23 to actually fund the government, and the issues of immigration and border policy will still need to be dealt with.

So, though government shutdowns are fairly uncommon, they do happen. We have seen 19 in the last 42 years, and we will see if there are more to come. 

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