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Longest Government Shutdown in US History

Holly Sampson, BA Middle Eastern Studies and World Philosophies

The US Government Shutdown commenced on 22 December and is the longest government shutdown in US history. The shutdown began due to a disagreement between President Donald Trump and the Democrats, surrounding Trump’s call for $5.7 billion in taxpayer’s money to proceed with the construction of the border wall. Since then, there has been no movement from either side to indicate any upcoming resolution. A Government Shutdown is the cessation of all non-essential operations and services in Federal Agencies. This affects around 25% of the government and has had a significant impact on 800,000 federal workers, with around 450,000 of these workers having to work without pay as they are unable to suspend their work or take up another job.

A government shutdown occurs in the US when Congress refuses to pass the bills and resolutions that allow the continuing funding of federal government operations and agencies, or when the President refuses to sign into bills or resolutions. The shutdown that the US is currently experiencing is due to the Democrats in Congress refusing to sign off on funding that Trump wants to build the border wall. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion in taxpayer money to proceed with construction, which the Democrats are standing firmly against. This stalemate means all non-essential federal agencies, such as NASA, are cut off from any funding until a resolution can be found. Whilst there have been some talks between Congress and the White House, a resolution does not seem to be fast approaching.

The impact of the government shutdown goes beyond the disagreement between Trump and the Democrats. 450,000 federal agency employees have to continue working, without being paid, due to the nature of their job. This includes air traffic controllers and Secret Service agents who have missed their first paycheck of the year. Whilst there have been some negotiations about the retrospective pay for this work that will be put in place once the government shutdown ends, those on worker contracts are not included in this. The government shutdown effects also spread more widely than employees themselves with around 80 government websites having their security compromised, food safety fears as the FDA is forced to suspend all non-essential work and an increasing weakness in airport security due to an increase in officers claiming sick days as they go without pay and officers quitting their jobs. There are also indirect and long-term issues that arise from this government shutdown such as money generated from tourism dropping as more and more national parks are closed and landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty are no longer being cleaned and maintained with federal money. Efforts to do essential research in medicine and in natural disasters, such as hurricane season preparation, are being held back as they run out of money that is necessary to continue their efforts.

” 450,000 federal agency employees have to continue working, without being paid, due to the nature of their job.”

For the US government shutdown to end, an agreement between Congress and the White House needs to be reached. Some members of the Congress are calling on the Senate to take up legislation to end the shutdown and allow the debate over the border wall when the government opens. However, Trump is also threatening to declare a national emergency. If he were to do this then he could build the wall without congressional approval. This is not without flaws for Trump as it would be a legal nightmare and could damage his political career beyond repair. As it stands currently, neither side seems willing to compromise and the US Government appears to be facing even more time shutdown, with consequences becoming increasingly dire with each passing day.

Image Credits: Creative Commons

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