Politics

Government Shutdown, As Apocalyptic As It Seems?

Thursday night, the House voted to approve a budget bill that would extend funding for one month. In that time they hope to negotiate a DACA deal to prevent a full government shutdown.  

Government Shutdown
Renno_new / Pixabay

Some politicians warn that a government shutdown would mean no pay for military, leaving America First Republicans indignant that Democrats are putting the interests of non-citizens before the military.

Although the bill passed the House, there is no guarantee it will pass the Senate. 60 votes are needed in the Senate to override a filibuster and pass the bill, but Republicans hold a narrow majority of 51 seats. Reports indicate that only 47 Republican Senators are in favor of the short term spending bill.

Who’s Voting No?

Three Republicans have stated that they are leaning towards a “No” vote. Conservative firebrand Rand Paul (KY) reports concerns over the federal debt, while Jeff Flake (AZ) said that he is “not inclined” to vote for the bill. Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) also has qualms with the bill believing there should be greater military spending and an immigration deal must be struck. Graham said on Thursday, “I am not going to support continuing this fiasco for 30 more days by voting for a continuing resolution. It’s time Congress stop the cycle of dysfunction, grow up and act consistent with the values of a great nation.”

Republican Senator John McCain (AZ) will also not be voting, as he is too ill. Many Republicans have been questioning why the 81 year old Senator, who is recovering from cancer treatments, has not resigned. McCain also voiced his opinion that military spending needs to be made a priority in the budget bill.

It seems unlikely that more than a dozen Democrats will vote to pass the temporary funding measure to prevent a government shutdown. Of the 49 Democrats in the Senate, only one, Joe Manchin (WV), has indicated that they will vote in favor of the Republican bill.

Although Republicans are eager to preemptively blame Democrats for the government shutdown, this will be the first time that a shutdown has occurred when one party controls the presidency as well as both chambers of Congress.

Trump tweeted Friday morning, “Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”

DACA

One of the major issues preventing an agreement is immigration, the crux of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

In particular the program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA protects hundreds of thousands of individuals who were brought into the US illegally as children. In September, President Trump announced his decision to end DACA by March 5th, 2018, but his decision has been blocked by a federal judge.

DACA is the result of a 2012 Obama Executive Order that outraged staunchly conservative members of Congress. It protects children who entered the country illegally from immediate deportation by allowing them to request a two year deferral, which is then eligible for renewal. DACA, however, does not provide legal status for the nearly 800,000 individuals who fall under its umbrella.

President Trump has said that there will be no DACA deal until there is funding for a wall on the US border with Mexico.

What Happens During a Government Shutdown?

Although alarmists claim that people will die during a government shutdown, all essential functions of the government will continue. Those serving active military duty will still be expected to report for duty, however they will not be paid until full government functions resume.

Nonessential agencies will shut down and nonessential employees with be put on furlough with no pay. Usually, these employees are paid retroactively once the government reopens. The last government shutdown occurred in 2013 under the Obama administration. It lasted for 2 weeks and saw more than 800,000 government employees temporarily out of work.

If a government shutdown were to happen, Washington tourist sites and the National Parks usually close. This doesn’t seem like such a great inconvenience, but the National Parks system reported that during the last government shutdown they lost some $500 million. The National Parks offer a vast array of services to US citizens and the environment, relying on philanthropy as well as government funding to continue their important work in preserving unique American animals species and ecosystems.

The IRS is also considered nonessential. In the last shutdown, 90% of their employees were on furlough, resulting in a major delay in paying out tax refunds. $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed.

The courts, postal service, and air travel all remain functional, although passport applications can be expected to be delayed. The Department of Veteran Affairs and the Social Security Administration will remain open as well. Social Security checks should be expected to be processed on time. VA hospitals will also remain open, while Medicare will continue to function.

The White House has claimed that while the Obama administration “weaponized” the 2013 shutdown, they will take great strides to protect the American people from inconvenience, including keeping the National Parks open.

What’s Next?

The initial deadline to prevent a government shutdown was actually in December, but Congress was able to pass a temporary measure granting a month long extension. That extension expires tonight at midnight. Since no deal was able to be reached in the month long extension, many worry that adding another month to the extension would just repeat the same problems.

The House bill only extends to February 16th, so even if it miraculously passes the Senate, the government shutdown drama will soon be revisited.

Blame for the government shutdown will likely devolve into a game of hot potato as both parties prepare for the all too important 2018 midterm elections.

If you would like to see a government shutdown averted it is recommended that you call your Senators to let them know. Although emails, faxes, and tweets often go ignored in their offices, phone calls and messages cannot be ignored if many people call in. Enough calls can interrupt the work day of staff, forcing them to confront the issue and pass on information to higher ups. Call 202-224-3121 to be connected to the Capitol switchboard. Ask to be connected to your Senator to make your opinion known.

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