Government Shutdown Enters 18th Day
This year will likely be remembered as having begun during one of the longest government shutdowns in US history.
The partial shutdown, which enters its 18th day Tuesday, is the second-longest in history following a 21-day funding gap in 1995 under President Bill Clinton.
It is the third shutdown to occur since Trump took office.
Of comparable length was a 16-day shutdown that occurred in October 2013 under Obama when GOP lawmakers resorted to drastic measures to block parts of the Affordable Care Act.
The current shutdown began on December 22nd when Congress failed to pass a budget. The gap affects about 25% of the government including major departments such as Interior, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Treasury, and State.
Trump says he won’t agree to reopen the government unless Congress provides $5 billion to start building a border wall between the US and Mexico. “The Democrats want Billions of Dollars for Foreign Aid, but they don’t want to spend a small fraction of that number on properly securing our Border. Figure that one out!” he tweeted on Saturday.
Trump’s stance is supported by his new chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who has already made several media appearances to defend Trump’s border wall demands.
On the opposing side are Democratic lawmakers, who are refusing to provide funding for the wall and insisting that any deal to reopen the government not be tied to border wall funding.
“The impression you get from the President [is] that he would like to not only close the government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday.
Pelosi’s comments follow a tense meeting with the president last Friday, after which Trump threatened to declare a national emergency in order to redirect Defense Department money towards the border wall.
Vice President Mike Pence met with Democrats later during the weekend in an effort to make progress on negotiations.
As outlined in a letter from acting White House Budget Director Russel T. Vought, the Administration offered to include $800 million to “address urgent humanitarian needs” at the border in a bill which includes $5.7 billion “for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border.”
The Administration also offered to restore a version of an Obama-era program that allowed children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to apply for refugee resettlement in the US.
“During our meetings with congressional staff this weekend, we made it clear that we have a crisis on our southern border,” said Pence. “And we outlined the president’s plan to secure our border, build a wall, and protect the American people. It’s time for the Democrats to start negotiating.”
In the meantime, hundreds of federal workers are either out of a job or working without pay.
While these workers will almost certainly receive back pay, they have no way of knowing when that money will arrive.
“I don’t care that most of the workers not getting paid are Democrats,” tweeted trump on Saturday. “I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?”
Other major problems related to the shutdown include National Parks, which are growing dangerous without maintenance, and the IRS, which is not prepared to process tax refunds.
Last Friday, the HUD sent letters to 1,500 landlords urging them not to evict tenants who rely on federal assistance to pay rent.
If the shutdown continues into February, up to 38 million Americans could lose access to food assistance.