On December 22nd 2018, following President Trump’s request for a federally-funded wall along the Mexican-American border being denied by the opposing Democratic Party, the United States Government found itself , once again, partially shut down. Three weeks later and this remains the situation, the country being held in an ever more expensive, damaging stalemate by a stubborn president and gridlocked Congress.
The shutdown has had a great impact on federally-funded services and has affected nearly 800,000 federal workers, causing many to have to work without pay. It is something that has occurred with alarming regularity under this President, but the latest instance is the most significant to date, becoming now the longest on record and showing little sign of an ending.
Every year, the President must sign budget legislation comprised of 12 appropriation bills, which outline the allocation of the federal budget to different government services and agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Transport Security Administration, US Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Internal Revenue Services. Currently, Trump is refusing to sign a bill that does not include the requested funding for a wall at the Mexican-American border.
Trump’s unrelenting demand for $5 billion to pay for a Mexican-American Iron Curtain has halted the approval of federal spending for the 2019 fiscal year. Democrats in Congress refuse to support any further spending on the wall, while Trump continues to threaten extending the shutdown for months or even years until Congress approves funding for the wall.
Historically, the US Constitution states that Congress has the ‘power of the purse’ and therefore, the power to appropriate government funds. The 1974 Budget and Impoundment Control Act further instilled this, granting Congress greater budgetary power and curtailing presidential involvement in appropriating funds. Government shutdowns usually arise when the President and the House and Senate are unable to resolve budgetary disagreements before interim deadlines in a budgetary cycle. The American government’s unique division of power sets the framework for a shutdown that would not otherwise be possible in countries with parliamentary systems.
However, America is no stranger to full or partial government shutdowns. Classified as a ‘partial shutdown’, this is the 21st shutdown in American history, and as already stated, the longest. The first government shutdown occurred on May 1st, 1980, but lasted only one day. The most notable shutdown in American history previously happened in 1995-1996 when the government shutdown for 21 days due to a dispute between Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican-majority in Congress.
Regardless of how long it takes for the government to resolve the shutdown, the days in which the government isn’t functioning have considerable consequences for national service and federal employees. Chief among these is the fact that the federal employees working in the departments affected by the partial shutdown will not receive pay until it is over.
For many departments, such as the Transport Security Administration, workers are still required to go to work every day despite this lack of pay. With some workers simply unable to even get to work as another consequence, though, greater pressure is put on many of the employees working in roles such as those vital to airline safety. Additionally, with the National Park Services affected by the shutdown, a third of national parks have been closed. Those still open are left open to vandalism and without basic maintenance.
Now, Trump is looking to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress to build his wall. However, while the future of the wall is still uncertain, the repercussions of Trump’s ceaseless fixation on illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican-American border and his inability to compromise with Congress on funding has certainly been, and continues to be felt across America.
A California-native currently residing in London, Teresa is a History graduate and freelance writer working in Higher Education. With a penchant for the nomadic lifestyle, she strives to learn firsthand about the cultural and historical foundations comprising each new place she visits.Teresa hopes to continue on her writing journey, while expanding her physical horizons and fostering her love of history and exploration.