Was a government shutdown necessary?

Jess Kaplan, Staff Writer

Congress failed to pass a spending bill last Jan. 19, causing a three-day government shutdown. This was the first government shutdown since 2013, and most likely not the last of the President Donald Trump’s administration.

One of Congress’s primary jobs is to pass an annual government spending bill. Unfortunately, the government failed to pass a revised spending law before last year’s bill expired. When the government shuts down, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are unable to receive their paycheck, and are legally obligated to not go to work, which is known as unpaid furlough. Additionally, many federal departments and agencies partially close, but airports, prisons, schools and local parks remain open.

For congress to pass a spending bill, bipartisan support is required. Republicans (holding the current House majority) need the Democrats to cooperate in order to pass laws. Democrats have the opportunity to withhold votes as a way to promote their agenda. This puts both parties in a tough situation: Republicans can compromise or risk being blamed for a government shutdown; Democrats can achieve some major policy victories or risk being seen as obstructionists. Over the past four months, Congress has been in a perpetual shutdown mode over a couple of basic issues such as immigration, child health care and disaster aid. In turn, Congress passed a series of short-term bills as a way to prevent a shutdown and extend the deadline for a long-term bill.

Democrats, and four senate Republicans, did not support another momentary solution, leaving the bill short of the 60 votes needed to advance. This resistance to the bill was also an attempt for Democrats to challenge the Republicans’ reluctance to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Trump administration had attempted to end the program that grants unauthorized immigrants, all of whom entered the country as minors, protection from deportation. However, Trump has stated as recently as Jan. 24 that he is now open to allowing a pathway to citizenship for those individuals eligible for DACA.

After a three day standoff, Congress voted to reopen the government. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed to reopen the government for three more weeks to negotiate an immigration deal. However, this will be difficult to solve as Trump has already vetoed one bipartisan proposal on immigration.

Fortunately the shutdown was not a catastrophe, since the majority of federal workers do not work on the weekend. Still, the shutdown made international headlines. From an international perspective, this is a negative reflection on the Trump administration. He is the figurehead of our country and Congress fell into chaos under his watch. The shutdown fittingly marked the end of Trump’s tumultuous first year as president.

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