Government shutdown temporarily suspended

Government shutdown temporarily suspended

Elizabeth Wirtz

Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the U.S. underwent the longest government shutdown in history, totaling 35 days from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019. Previously, the longest shutdown had been for 21 days during President Bill Clinton’s term in office, when the issue of Medicare spending within the government budget was announced in December of 1995, and lasted until January of 1996. The issue at hand was Trump advocating for additional southern border security and pushing his plan to build a wall along the U.S. and Mexico Border. 

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Advocating for a border wall was a fundamental component of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and he originally asked for $5 billion for this project, according to The Independent. The Democratic party has been adamantly against this since Trump proposed the plan. New York Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Dec. 21, 2018: “For the wall’s $5.7 billion, every child in America could have access to Universal Pre-K. Yet when we propose the SAME $ [same amount], we’re told Universal [Education] is a ‘fantasy’ & asked, ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ Education is an investment in society that yields returns. Walls are waste.”

During the government shutdown, essential government offices were kept open. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Coast Guard, and Border Patrol remained open. The United Postal Service, Social Security, and Transportation Security Administration remained open as well. Some of the agencies closed during the shutdown were the National Parks Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A report was issued from the Senate Appropriations Committee breaking down the Federal workers going to work during the shutdown. More than 420,000 were estimated to go to work without pay. Of those, 340,000 were from the Department of Homeland Security, 41,000 were law enforcement and correctional facility officers, and 5,000 were Forest Service firefighters. 

Beyond the workers forced to go to work without pay, there were 380,000 workers furloughed, according to the report by the Senate Appropriation Committee. When a worker is furloughed, it means they are sent home without pay. The government is responsible for paying back the time worked while workers were furloughed; however, they are not paid back immediately. Contracted workers for the government will not receive pay for the time the government was shutdown. According to CBS News, workers have historically been paid back after being furloughed due to a government shutdown. Nearly 86 percent of the Department of Commerce staff and about 96 percent of NASA employees were working while being furloughed. About 52,000 IRS workers and 95 percent of Housing and Urban Development employees were also furloughed. 

Beyond the immediate impact of federal workers missing their first paycheck of the year, the gross domestic product (GDP) saw a decline of about $11 billion during the shutdown. The fourth quarter of 2018 lost $8 billion in GDP and the first quarter of 2019 lost $3 billion. Since the government reopened, The Balance reported that all but $3 billion will be able to be recovered with government spending. The Balance explained that GDP is created by U.S. workers and contractors spending money themselves, but when workers do not receive paychecks, they spend less. Government spending is responsible for up to 18 percent of GDP, so the shutdown, which halted government spending for 35 days, reduced GDP. 

On Jan. 25, the Office of the Press Secretary released a statement saying that President Trump signed the “Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act 2019,” which provides “appropriations through February 15, 2019 for continuing projects and activities of the Federal Government included in the seven remaining appropriations bills.” This bill does not include the funding for the border security wall President Trump advocated for during the shutdown. Senate Leader (D) Chuck Schumer said that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party “agree on many things, such as the need for drug inspection technology, humanitarian aid, [and] strengthening security at our ports of entry.” If a compromise is not reached regarding border security by Feb. 15, the government will be shutdown again, or President Trump may pass an executive order to create a border wall. President Trump said, “We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier [ . . . ] If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.” 

Since the government shutdown, there has been controversy surrounding the date of the State of the Union Address. In Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, it is declared that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The State of the Union is an opportunity for the president to speak openly in front of both houses of Congress about the current state of the U.S. and the presidential goals for the year. While the State of the Union Address is a tradition and in the Constitution, the president must first be invited by the Speaker of the House who is currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sent a request to President Trump asking him to delay the annual State of the Union Address, which was previously scheduled for Jan. 29, to a later date. Pelosi requested to have President Trump submit his speech in a letter format because of potential security risks  due to the lack of federal workers working due to government shutdown.