In the case that Congress fails to agree upon bills that fund federal government operations and agencies, or if the President refuses to sign such bills, a nationwide government shutdown occurs in the United States. This situation describes that of the state of our government for the past three weeks, sparked from a disagreement regarding the border security budget, and ultimately affecting the lives of millions of Americans all across the country, with no end in sight.
The possibility of a government shutdown was first discussed by President Trump on December 11th, when he met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The possibility was brought up due to a disagreement over border security – Trump insists upon the need of more funding for a border wall against Democratic opposition. On December 19th, the Senate passed a resolution for funding, without the extra money for the border wall, with Republican leaders confident that Trump would sign it. However, on December 20th, President Trump was no longer willing to sign the resolution, with pressure from ultra-conservative members of the Freedom Caucus being the main possible influence as to his change of decision. The House then passed a new spending bill including the five billion dollars Trump has demanded for the wall, but the bill was declined at the Senate, therefore leaving the government with no funding resolution. Henceforth, the government entered a government shutdown on the 22nd.
Entering its third week, this government shutdown is already nearing the length of the previous shutdown that occurred in 2013 under the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. Needless to say, the 2018 shutdown’s effect on individuals working for the government is massive. As CNBC reports, an estimated 450,000 federal employees are working without pay through the government shutdown. This includes workers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), parks and museums, and law enforcement (including the F.B.I, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs and Borders protection). While Medicare, Social Security, and Veterans benefits are not affected by the shutdown – as these programs were already fully funded – the scope of the government shutdown remains large and impactful. Many affected people have shared their experiences online. Peggy McChesney was recently widowed when her husband died late December, but because of the government shutdown, she has been unable to claim her husband’s death benefits – money that is essential to her livelihood. Due to the shutdown, many people have started looking into other job opportunities. As one individual working in the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) says, “I love my job and I’m deeply invested in the mission of USDA, but I’ve had to start looking for other jobs with such uncertainty." Farah Jayman, a single mother working for the FDA, is “currently furloughed with enough funds to last the 15th of the month.” After the 15th, her funds will run out. These individuals’ stories are proof of the range and intensity of the shutdown’s impact on people’s lives and financial situations.
If the government shutdown continues on without end, many people who are already in financial struggles will continue to suffer with consequences only becoming graver. With discussions about the wall at a standstill, we can only pray for these people who were inadvertently caught in the crossfires.