United States government shutdown: all you need to know about the chaos in D.C.

CASEY TRIMM – The government may have shut down, but the rest of America didn’t. Let’s investigate what actually happened before, during and after the U.S. government’s nineteenth shutdown.

The shutdown occurred Saturday, January 20 and remained effective until Monday, January 22 midday after the Democrat party accepted a deal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who publicly made an offer to continue government funding for two and a half more weeks.

To start, why did the government shutdown? In simplest terms, the most basic reason is that Congress failed to pass a new government funding law before the old one in place expired.

“Last week’s government shutdown was peculiar in that Republicans control all three branches of government yet they could not reach an agreement on how to fund the government,” said Kyle Mares ‘20, a political science major from San Diego, California.

On top of that, there has been a simmering dispute between Democrats and Republicans over immigration policies, specifically that involving DACA, that many wanted included with the budget bill while others opposed.

With the Trump administration’s decision to end this Obama-era program, most Democrats said they won’t continue to support government funding bills without a DACA deal included in the budget.

According to Vox Media, at least nine Democratic votes were needed to reach a 60 vote supermajority to pass the Senate. This did not occur, hence the shutdown.

Philosophy, politics and economics major Nick Gallagher ‘18 from Morgantown, West Virginia believes, “This shutdown had a lot in common with the one that happened in 2013. Both times the proposed budget on the table ignored caps that were put into law by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which means 60 votes are needed to pass it in the Senate. This gives the minority party leverage to bargain with even when the issue has little to do with the budget itself; this time it was DACA and the Dreamers and in 2013 it was Obamacare.”

To elaborate, thousands of people across the U.S. were affected by the shutdown, whether it be their personal or professional lives.

Thousands of federal employees were placed on furlough, meaning they didn’t report to work. Until Congress was able to agree on a bill for the federal budget, workers of agencies and departments considered nonessential didn’t go to work, but should receive compensation after the shutdown ends. These departments range from National Park Services to the Center for Disease Control.

Within the White House itself, 1,056 members of the Executive Office of the President were furloughed, while 659 essential workers continued to report to work, according to CNN. Furloughed workers reported to work the following Monday, but could only work a maximum of four hours in order to engage in shutdown activities.

Since the military is considered essential, personnel still reported for duty, however they potentially may not be paid during the shutdown. Additionally, many civilian Department of Defense workers did not work during the shutdown, including military academy instructors and maintenance contractors.

When it comes to essential services including the U.S. postal system, Transportation Security Administration and air traffic control, they continued to be funded even if some employees of those agencies aren’t.

A government shutdown can be fairly expensive, with costs including $2.5 billion in compensation for workers and over $511 million lost in visitor spending at National Parks, according to Politifact.

Last Monday afternoon, Congress voted to reopen the government. This was the first government shutdown of the Trump administration, and some fear that it is not going to be the last.

Nick Gallagher ‘18 remarked, “The key to preventing this from happening again is prioritizing and creating reasonable budgets on time that comply with the Budget Control Act standards.”

Unless an agreement is reached, the government is predicted to shutdown again on February 8, when the extra two and a half weeks are up.

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