Police tape marks a secured area of the Capitol, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Washington, as a bitterly-divided Congress hurtles toward a government shutdown this weekend. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Originally published Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 06:05a.m.
The headline said it all: “Government shutdown begins and so does the finger-pointing.”
The Republicans and Democrats could not overcome their differences Friday night, resulting in a federal government shutdown.
And it is all about politics.
On Saturday, just after midnight Eastern time, the talking heads started throwing barbs, and it continued throughout the day.
“Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader who is from New York, said Saturday as the parties tried to make the other out to be the bad guy.
“We did everything we could to stop them,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said. “The solution to this manufactured crisis was inches away.”
What does this mean? Many loans go unprocessed, EPA inspections halt, trade and retail reports go unreleased, tech exports are delayed, workplace inspections cease, many national parks close (not the Grand Canyon, according to state officials), tax refunds will be delayed, Head Start centers close, food/safety inspections stop, monitoring of disease – even influenza – stops, many small military contracts stop, the processing of backlogs at the Veterans Administration stalls, and thousands of federal workers will be on vacation.
The good news? Social Security benefits, federal law enforcement, and military service continue.
Basically, a relatively short federal shutdown will not kill us.
Oh, but it will hurt.
The Daily Courier editorial board sees this as a disgrace – politicians being irresponsible and imprudent on all sides.
Democrats are naïve to think making DACA an issue would not have blowback. It also could hurt their Senate candidates in red states; Republican Rep. Martha McSally, running for Jeff Flake’s Senate seat, is already blaming Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, one of her opponents.
And Republicans? They are foolish to think they won’t be blamed. The GOP controls all levels of government and President Trump is on record saying a shutdown can be good.
Everyone is playing politics. No one is governing. A pox on both parties.
Yet, let’s look at the history of shutdowns.
Since 1976, when the current budget and appropriations process was enacted, there have been 18 gaps in budget funding, eight of which have led to federal employees being furloughed. Since 1990 the lack of a budget – any gap – has resulted in shutting down the government.
Also since 1990, the funding gaps have produced shutdowns longer than a day. George H.W. Bush’s administration caused a weekend shutdown, Bill Clinton’s administration had two full government shutdowns (1995 and 1996, lasting five and 21 days respectively), and Obama’s presidency saw a shutdown from Oct. 1 to 16 in 2013.
Why? That’s the rub. These four prior shutdowns were disagreements over substance, such as whether to cut government services or not, or disputes over the Affordable Care Act. Big ticket items.
The one that started Saturday morning can be boiled down to immigration – the DACA “dreamers” – and a line item of less than $200 million; not huge considering the scope of the federal budget.
It is unconscionable that Congress cannot get its act together and prevent this.
The shutdown won’t kill us, but it will leave a nasty wound and the world is watching.