Over the weekend, you may have heard that the government shut down (yes, you still have to pay taxes), and as usual, the Republicans are blaming the Democrats, while the Democrats are blaming the republicans. The congressional battle which has poured out onto social media has captivated much of the nation. On Saturday, President Trump tweeted “Democrats are far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border, they could have easily made a deal but decided to play Shutdown politics instead.” Not to be outdone, Nancy Pelosi (D), Minority Leader in the House of Representative shot back “Before he took office, @realDonaldTrump was happy to say the president owns the blame for a government shutdown, as President, he blames Democrats.” Truly determining which side of the aisle deserves blame is tough. On the one hand, if the Republican party proposed solid legislation, theoretically, they shouldn’t have any issues getting it passed since they have a majority in both the House of Representatives, and in the Senate (so maybe their proposal isn’t so great). But on the other, the Democrats, by many accounts are holding up a bill that they aren’t opposed to in a last-ditch effort to get Republicans to the table to discuss other non-budget related issues. Regardless of who is at fault, the shut down puts the country in a perplexing and potentially dangerous position. For as long as the government remains closed for business, essential government personnel will be required to show up for work, but they will not be paid. No other government employees will be allowed to work. The armed forces will continue to carry out missions, and firefighters, police officers and other emergency services will continue to function normally, but the men and women performing these functions will not receive payment for their work. Let’s take a look at the events that led to the shutdown and the hot-button topics responsible for the stalemate.
The Hours Leading Up To The Shutdown
Congress had a deadline of midnight Saturday morning to approve of a new government spending plan, an agreement that would have funded government organizations throughout the remainder of the fiscal year, which began back in October of 2017. The chances of getting a permanent deal done were slim from the beginning, as congressional Democrats planned to hold the budget discussions hostage until they could get answers from the President on various topics and reach agreements with congressional Republicans on the issues as well. Aware of this, the House passed a stop-gap solution – a bill that would allow the government to continue running for three more weeks, to allow time for Congress to reach an accord. The only problem was that the bill failed to make it through the Senate before midnight Saturday.
The main issue alluded to above is DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA, which is widely supported by congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans, was a policy enacted under the Obama administration to protect “Dreamers,” or undocumented children illegally brought to the US by their parents. Under DACA, Dreamers (known as such because of the 2001 failed DREAM Act that proposed offering undocumented immigrants citizenship in exchange for attending college or joining the military) were able to legally obtain licenses, attend college, and find employment. They were also given certain protections regarding deportation. Since the Trump Administration announced plans to repeal DACA unless Congress acted to save it, Republicans and Democrats alike have been trying to get the President to establish parameters around the type of bill that he would be willing to sign and to stick to them. Initially, President Trump said that he would sign any bill that Congress put in front him, but later retracted from this position after facing opposition from supporters of stricter anti-immigration laws. The Democrats promised constituents that they would address DACA by the end of 2017, but negotiations have slipped into this year. With DACA scheduled for repeal in March, Democrats are using the 2018 budget to bring the President to negotiating table before the deadline.
Another divisive issue is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or “CHIP” – though negotiations for the funding of this program have pretty much been ironed out already. Congress let the legislation that funded this program expire briefly in the fall of 2017 before establishing a temporary fix that provided additional funding for a few months with the hope that an agreement could be reached within that time frame. However, in an effort to entice congressional Democrats to sign a temporary bill to fund the government for an additional three weeks, Republicans have put in place a six-year funding plan for CHIP, which would ensure that hundreds of thousands of children, and some pregnant women will have access to affordable, low cost health insurance even if their income exceeds eligibility limits for medicaid.
Other lingering issues include increased spending on defense, backed primarily by Republicans, and an increase in the budget for education, which democrats expect to receive in exchange. Both parties should be able to reach an agreement on these issues relatively quickly, should a solution for DACA be proposed and accepted.
Where We Stand Now
Amid all of the political posturing on social media, we will likely be entering day three of the government shutdown in the same, if not a worse place, than when we entered day two. According to various sources, Democratic leaders have not reached out to the White House as of Saturday night, nor has the White House reached out to the Democratic party leaders – both sides are at a stalemate and waiting for the other to make the first move. The Republicans seem to be holding firm on their promise of not negotiating DACA while the military and other branches of the government remain unfunded. Meanwhile, the Democrats are just as steadfast, refusing to sign any continuance of the budget in its current form until after they have received assurances protecting the futures of the approximately 700,000 undocumented immigrants that could be affected by a DACA repeal. As of now there doesn’t seem to be an immediate way forward, as both sides are firmly dug in on their stances. Both sides are expected to reconvene around noon tomorrow – maybe a new day will usher in new hope and both sides can reach an accord.
Which party is to blame for the shutdown? Should DACA be upheld, and if so should any changes be made? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.