By: Mac Williams
As the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31 the American people ushered in 2019 with resolutions and renewed hopes and dreams. They also began 2019 with a federal government that had been shutdown since Dec. 21, 2018 when funding expired and work stopped across nine different federal departments.
According to Lauren Gambino of The Guardian, Congress is in charge of funding the federal government through an annual budget. That budget must be agreed to by both houses of Congress and then signed by the president in order to go into effect.
According to Gambino, the budget contains 12 appropriations bills which lay out how federal agencies can spend their money during the fiscal year. Over the last 20 years this process has become increasingly partisan and used by both parties as leverage on legislative priorities.
According to Business Insider, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history occurred from Dec. 15, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996, a 21-day span. The shutdown occurred when the President Bill Clinton vetoed a spending bill proposed by the Republican controlled Congress.
The current government shutdown sits at 19 days as of this Wednesday with little optimism on either side of the isle for a compromise in the near future.
The reason for this latest shutdown is directly linked to the debate over illegal immigration. According to CBS News, the shutdown occurred when Congress, which was Republican controlled at the time, refused to appropriate $5.6 billion for President Trump’s wall along the U.S. Mexico border.
During the 2016 presidential campaign President Trump repeatedly issued the promise that he would build a wall along the southern border to deter illegal immigration into the U.S. He also said repeatedly that Mexico, not the American people, would pay for the wall.
Since the shutdown began, Trump and congressional leaders have met several times to try and negotiate a compromise to end the shutdown, but each time negotiations have broken down.
When talking to reporters as he left the White House, Trump floated the idea of declaring a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and build his proposed wall without approval from lawmakers.
That declaration would be immediately challenged in court as Democrats would challenge his authority to use emergency powers to proceed with a project without approval from Congress. It is not clear which way the courts would rule and stands to reason the issue could be headed for a long court battle if the president decides to go that route.
As the shutdown drags on it is beginning to have an impact on over 800,000 federal employees who are either furloughed or working without pay. According to Kevin Breuninger of CNBC, this Friday will mark the first time during this shutdown that approximately 420,000 federal workers will not receive a paycheck.
In past shutdowns Congress has authorized back pay for workers who missed paychecks due to the shutdown.
As of now, very few people know when this current shutdown will end. As it continues to drag on both Trump and congressional Republicans will face increasing pressure to cut a deal due to the proposed wall’s lack of popularity with the general public.