After a weekend-long shutdown, The House has followed the Senate and agreed to fund the U.S. government for three weeks. Still, many Americans find themselves uneasy at the idea that the government shut down in the first place, meaning all unessential employees will be instructed not to return to work, and typically essential services such as national security, emergency health care and postal services will be expected to continue without pay. Notably, this time no one has missed paychecks as of Monday.
One might ask, “How does the most powerful country in the world find itself in a government shutdown?” The answer lies in money, as is the cause for many issues.
The U.S. Senate has failed to vote on a new budget for the next financial year, and without approved funding, nothing runs. However, this question does not satiate curiosity. The murder weapon is fine and dandy, but there is still a lookout for the perpetrator. The next step is asking why.
“Why” is a more complicated question, of course. At this point, establishing a timeline is useful. President Trump submitted his budget on March 16, 2017, which is slightly later than the federal budget law 31 U.S.C. § 1105a’s deadline, the first Monday of February. However, this delay is not uncommon when the incumbent belongs to a different party. The last time there was a delay was the 2013 Obama administration budget, the year the government was shut down for 16 days, costing $24 billion in tax payer dollars.
Nevertheless, this delay does not excuse lawmakers from failing to meet their own deadline, Jan. 17. On Wednesday, Congress officially missed their deadline and national parks began reduced activity. Joint efforts on the part of both Democrats and Republicans were made in an attempt to reach a temporary extension on Friday, but no agreement could be made. At midnight on Saturday, funding for the 2017 financial year officially ran out and Shutdown began. This lack of progress continued to the work week as both parties pointed the blame on the other. Democratic party leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, cited the volatility of negotiations with President Trump:
“The President must take yes for an answer. Until he does, it’s the Trump shutdown.”
The “yes” above refers to Schumer’s tentative offer of a U.S. border wall, one of Trump’s famous campaign promises. The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, claims the president’s actions are due to the Democratic party demanding too much at once:
“The President wouldn’t resolve months of ongoing negotiations over massive issues in one brief meeting and give the Democratic leader everything he wants.”
The Democrats’ filibuster is on a budget plan for 2018. However, the reason for the filibuster is to force Republicans to commit to addressing immigration policy, which the Republicans refuse to do until a budget is passed.
We are left with two lines of reasoning: the shutdown is because the majority party are trying to exert their will over the other by being uncooperative, or the Democrats are holding hostage the government in order to push their agenda on immigration.
Whether the shut down is a Democratic or Republican one, it’s clear the subject of immigration looms too large to wait.