Government Shutdown Causes Chaos Across The Country


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The US. Capitol Building houses the US Senate and the House of Representatives.

Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

On December 21, 2018, the government went into a partial shutdown, leaving 800,000 federal workers without pay. Periodically, Congress has to pass bills funding for the plentiful government agencies. A government shutdown happens when government offices can’t remain open due to a lack of funding. Issues with funding are caused by a delay in the approval of the federal budget bill. The shutdown remains in effect until parties can reach a compromise and pass the bill.

At the turn of year, Democrats and Republicans were butting heads when it came to the budget bill. President Trump and his congressional supporters stipulated that $5.7 billion dollars needed to be put into the bill for the purpose of constructing of a southern border wall. Democrats refused to agree to pass the bill that included the desire of funding for a border wall, causing a standstill. Therefore, the bill wasn’t able to meet its December 21st deadline, causing a partial shutdown which ended up being the longest in history.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons License
Hundreds of people protest the government shutdown on its 28th day and march on Washington D.C.

Americans, including the government, are split over the border wall issue. A benefit of the wall would be increased homeland security. According to ThoughtCo., $113 billion is lost in income tax per year due to illegal immigration. In his State of the Union Address, Trump continued to insist that drug smuggling and sex trafficking will significantly decrease if the wall is built. The effectiveness of the wall is up for debate. Many who are against it stipulate that it could be easy to get around, and that it won’t make a difference. According to an article published by the University of California, Berkeley, dangerous illegal immigrants like traffickers and drug smugglers mostly come through legal entries by outsmarting security. The Democrats and Republicans, supporters and critics, figuratively have met a wall over this debate.

This complex issue had built up to the point it caused the temporary shutdown. Nine major agencies were affected: Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, State, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Treasury, and Transportation. Some smaller agencies were closed like the Peace Corps, Small Business Administration, and NASA. Based on a 2019 New York Times article, airport security was at a low, and flights were delayed. Due to the effect on the Justice Department, court cases are backed up. In addition, a major issue was the fact that the Food and Drug Administration had stopped it’s inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and other foods at risk for contamination. According to a January 2019 report from The Congressional Budget Office, $11 billion dollars of domestic product was lost. “The shutdown is going to cost more than what he’s asking for. It’s going to have a negative rippling effect on the American economy,” said Mr. Pettengill, a history teacher.

According to the Washington Post, one half of the workers that were left out of work are essential to the operation of the government. They were called back into work without pay, and would only be paid when the government reopened. In fact, 80% of the Justice and Homeland Security Department workers were still at work. Many called out sick, causing disruptions. The other half of the federal workers were considered nonessential and were furloughed. Meaning, they had to stay home without pay, not even allowed to their check emails and they had to change their voicemails. With the shutdown of the Interior, National Park staffing wasn’t sufficient enough to protect and maintain the parks. The Environmental Protection Agency furloughed 95% of its workers, according to the balance. As a result, vandalism was rampant and national resources that were destroyed could take 300 years to replace. “In the end, border security is important. However, using the 800,000 federal employees as hostages as a means of obtaining only one aspect of it – a wall – is un-American and selfish,” said senior Emma Bowler.

On January 25, 2019 Trump signed authorization bill to reopen the government until February 15, 2019. The shutdown lasted 35 days. If the Democrats and Republicans can’t meet a compromise before the 15th, the government will shut down a second time. In his statement on the 25th, he warned that he could declare a national emergency and take money from the Pentagon to being construction of the wall. Also, in his State of the Union Address made on February 5th, Trump continued to warn of the dangers of illegal immigration and the need for more border security and a border wall. Americans are now left wondering what will happen next – will a second shutdown occur, can a compromise be made or will Trump declare a national emergency?

Congress recently came to a compromise that allowed the government to stay open past the February 15 deadline. The bill did not provide as much funding as President Trump initially requested, however he agreed to sign it to keep the government open. On February 15 President Trump formally declared a national emergency on the southern border. This power allows the executive branch to get funding without going through Congress. California has already filed a lawsuit against this declaration with more states and organizations expected to follow.