Government Shutdown on Anniversary of Trump Inauguration
The Pound has gained 25% against the US Dollar today, exchanging higher at $1.39. The weakened state of the Dollar is due to the US government being shut down for the third, and possibly the last day, today 22 January. Lawmakers are set to vote today at noon in Washington DC, on a short-term spending bill that will fund the government until 8 February. The shutdown happens to have come on the auspicious anniversary of Donald Trump’s first year in office.
Trump planned to mark the occasion at a lavish Republican fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate, but he chose to remain in the White House instead. Donors who paid $100,000 to $250,000 per couple to attend the “Trump Victory Fund” event and spend time in his company, instead watched Trump address them by video from screens at the event.
The president has been determined to blame Senate Democrats for the “Schumer Shutdown,” with the White House press release saying: “They put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans.” Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Schumer immediately re-labeled the crisis as “the Trump shutdown.” CNN reported that sources close to the White House say that the president fears “he will be blamed for it.”
Trust issues all around
The president was the instigator of the deal makers hardening their positions on immigration, since his vulgar comments led to each side distrusting their opponents. At a meeting to discuss special Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection for the children of illegal immigrants, Trump made comments about immigrants that have been termed racist by those who heard them.
The first person who repeated the comment he attributes to the president (which Trump has denied), Democratic Senator Dick Durbin later tried to shame the president into supporting the legislation. Durbin said “If President Trump is not a racist, he can prove it” by agreeing a deal on DACA. Trump’s response was a tweet about “Dicky Durban” saying: “Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military!”
Immigration issues aren’t the only sticking point between the two parties that the president has proven unable to strike any deals on. The White House has promised that no immigration discussions will be held while the government is closed and Trump has not attended any of the frantic meetings that have been held over the weekend. Worse, even the leaders of his own party are frustrated by Trump’s inconsistency as their leader. Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: “I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign.”
Trump has backed out of commitments he made with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer after Democrats agreed to fund Trump’s Mexican border wall in a bid to secure DACA, changing his position only hours before the shutdown began. Congressional leaders are now hoping that Trump will stay out of their way as they work out their own deals, with hope that he will simply agree to whatever the outcome of these agreements will be. In the meanwhile, the shutdown will be costly to workers that are affected.
No pay for troops
Military forces working in the US and abroad will continue to carry out their assignments and accrue pay, however they won’t receive their salaries until the government shutdown ends. Nearly as many civilians as soldiers work In the White House, and on US bases across the world. These local workers include medical personnel such as doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers, child care workers as well as guards and staff working in dining facilities. Most of the White House staff will also be furloughed.
These civilians are being furloughed during a shutdown, which means they stop working and lose any wages they weren’t able to have earned. Military preparedness is challenged since many of their roles must be filled by military personnel until these workers can return. Spouses of soldiers who work and rely on the military childcare centres are also affected since they can’t work, so while the shutdown continues, neither parent would be earning an immediate income.
Waiting in limbo
Federal workers are caught in limbo since they are simply waiting to hear the news that the government will re-open. For families who are living from paycheck to paycheck, this wait is an agonising pressure since they will not be paid until they are permitted to return. Managers warn workers not to use the time as holiday—insisting they don’t make travel plans—which is the same procedure they followed during the last shutdown which lasted nearly three weeks.
Other workers hired by the US Government include a vast number of those who are fulfilling government contracts from offices near the government buildings. Unlike their colleagues who are working directly for the government, these employees won’t receive their full salaries later which will include being paid for the days in which they couldn’t work. Contractors are on standby, unable to make plans for any short break since they must be ready to return to work the following day. They will scan the news every evening and morning for clues about the likelihood of working the next day. Since they don’t earn any money over the shutdown, and won’t be paid later for the lost wages, they and the other civilians being furloughed are the most anxious group of workers affected by the government shutdown.
The US is peerless when it comes to having the self-made crisis of a government shut down from time to time. The reason why US lawmakers have not changed the budget funding laws that would allow the government to continue being funded is that it takes away the “ability of one side to blackmail the other side,” says Tom Davis, a former Republican Congressman who tried to pass legislation that would forever prevent government shutdowns.
This particular event is noteworthy: being the first shutdown that has occurred when a single party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. The last shut down in 2013 was caused by a failed Republican bid to deny funding for Obama’s Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown was far less complicated than the current one, since it was one party attempting to block a single bill.
DACA immigration issues are clearly the biggest stumbling block in the ongoing negotiations. Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller is being held responsible the hardline restrictive immigrant stance the White House has taken which even Republicans such a Lindsey Graham are critical about. Politicians are also divided about the significant increase to military spending that has been demanded by Trump. Another divisive issue is the necessary reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Democrats say Republicans are pressurising them to choose between continuing this popular programme for low-income working families or the DACA Dreamer deal.
Many people thought the last shutdown would be quickly resolved, and yet, it lasted nearly three weeks, costing the government tens of millions of Dollars each day. Given that Trump isn’t displaying the negotiating genius he prides himself upon, the odds that he can strike a deal with Democrats that he can convince Republicans to agree to are very slim. Ironically, the US government’s policy of using their own budget as a tool to “blackmail” the other party is a very costly practice that is not the country’s finest of American exceptionalism.