As Congress and the President Argue, the Government Shuts Down
Last Friday night, the United States Government shutdown for the first time since 2013. For 3 whole days, important parts of the federal government, from national parks to the State Department ceased their functions. On Monday, a deal was reached with a Bipartisan group of Senators to finally reopen the shuttered government.
Over a hectic weekend, Congress battled to pass a budget to keep the government open. After much debate, a small spending bill intended to keep the government open until February 16th was passed by the House, but was shot down by a 50-49 vote in the Senate. After the failure of this small bill, both parties could not find a way come together until the government had been closed for 3 days.
Generally, both Republicans and Democrats prefer to avoid government shutdowns, and the latest trend has been to pass short, stopgap bills to prevent this drastic outcome. However, due to a wide range of outside circumstances, from children's healthcare to immigration, the usual cooperation between the two parties was thrown out the window.
The Democratic party was the deciding force on determining whether a government shutdown would occur. The Republican majority in the Senate, already slim, was simply not enough to pass the current budget, as numerous ultra-conservative Republican members had already planned to vote against the bill. Democrats did not plan to give up their advantage, and demanded that any new budget includes provisions for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a popular policy that allows young immigrants to stay in the Country. Though this demand ultimately failed, Senate Democrats did receive a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY) that the urgent topic of immigration would be brought to the floor in the coming months.
President Trump, along with many members of the Republican party, refused to compromise on DACA and other immigration related issues. Last week, a bipartisan long term budget appeared close, but fell to pieces after a debacle of a meeting which involved President Trump allegedly calling Haiti and Africa, “Shithole countries.”
Since that meeting last week, virtually no progress was made in creating a spending bill that members of both parties can agree on. Republican leadership has been quick to accuse the Democrats of playing politics, with Senate majority leader Mitch Mcconnell (R-KY) saying, “the Democratic leader has convinced his members to filibuster any funding bill that doesn’t include legislation they are demanding for people who came into the United States illegally.”
The President himself weighed in on Twitter about the Democrats refusal to come to the negotiating table. Accusing them of wanting, “illegal immigration and weak borders” and asking about the possibility of a government shutdown.
Democratic leadership was quick to shoot back, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), saying that Mr. Mcconnell and other Senior Republicans are, “looking to deflect blame. But it just won't work. We all know what the problem is. It's complete disarray on the Republican side."
Despite the clear rivalries and disagreements, some lawmakers were able to put aside their differences and work to stop the shutdown. 23 Senators, 13 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and one Independent were the coalition that labored through the night to put an end to the 3 day long fiasco. The final Senate Resolution was able to pass with a record of 81 to 18, signaling that both parties had reached a conclusion.
As the Congressional Midterm elections draw ever closer, the stakes for the budget fight are higher than ever. Both Republicans and Democrats are attempting to pin the shutdown on each other, and make gains in the House and Senate. It is generally seen that the Democrats faced a setback with the shutdown, as Republicans were able to blame them for putting the needs of illegal immigrants before citizens.