Breaking News: Government Shutdown Need to Know

By Hannah MacDonald, Global Issues Division Head. Photo found here.

Hello? Can you hear me? This is Hannah MacDonald coming at you live in the midst of a national government shutdown. As of January 21, 2019 EST, the shutdown is in its 31st day and has surpassed the 21-day shutdown of 1995–1996, becoming the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. This shutdown has made its way into class discussions and family dinner table talks, so allow me to make sure you enter such conversations with nothing more valuable than the facts.

What is it?

First and foremost, a government shutdown, in essence, is when congress fails to pass, or the president refuses to sign, appropriations legislation funding federal government operations and agencies. In even simpler terms, it is when congress and the president reach a stalemate on the allocations of the federal budget. As a result, essential federal employees will continue work while non-essential employees will be told to take an unpaid leave. Such non-essential employees would be those working at national parks, monuments, museums, etc. For example, during Obama’s 2013 shutdown, roughly 850,000 employees were furloughed per day. However, many federal workers have to remain working without pay, such as the president, presidential appointees, members of Congress, the Postal Service, the TSA and Air Traffic Control. While every agency has their own plan in the face of a shutdown, most workers will receive back pay for their work; it is just a matter of time once the government is up and running again. In recap, a government shutdown is when essential federal offices must work without pay, and non-essential federal offices close due to lack of funding and can only re open when congress and the president can reach a compromise and a budget bill passes for the upcoming fiscal year.

Why is it happening now?

The current 2018/19 shutdown has culminated from the standstill between President Trump and the democrats on a spending bill in regards to funding for border security. The budget fight is centered on Trump’s demand to fund a wall along the US-Mexico border; senate had passed a spending bill without money for the wall and subsequently, Trump would not sign it. After many, presumably heated, debates among the two parties, a compromise could not be reached. In the eyes of many democrats, as Nancy Pelosi puts it, “The fact is, a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.” Meanwhile, many republicans side with Trump as he says, “Why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside.” With neither side willing to give in, the fight between the two parties reached a deadlock.

However, on Saturday January 19th, in the midst of government silence, Trump spoke up proposing a new plan to end the government shutdown. He offered a “three-year reprieve from deportation to undocumented migrants brought to the US as children who are covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to people from certain nations who qualify for Temporary Protected Status.” In essence, this would give those here illegally under DACA and TPS time to sort out their circumstances rather than undergo any sort of immediate deportation, and in correspondence, the wall for border security would be funded. In his Saturday speech, he listed his goals for the wall:

  • He expanded on its need due to the humanitarian and security crisis.
  • The thousands of children that are being exploited by ruthless coyotes, vicious cartels and gangs.
  • He also explained that the treck from Mexico to America to cross the border is dangerous in itself, as 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted during their journey north and 50 migrants a day need urgent medical care because of their journey. Thus, the wall would limit those trying to enter illegally and correspondingly limit the amount of rapes and medical care needed as a result of the journey.
  • He continued to say that 90% of heroin comes across the southern border, and as a result over 78,000 Americans are killed a year from it.
  • The lack of border control gives criminal and gang members a gateway into the U.S because there is no type of security check coming in.  

Still, congress turned down Trump’s deal to reopen the government through the DACA compromise in return for said wall, leaving Americans wondering what it will take to reach a compromise between the two battling parties.

Where have we seen this before?

Shockingly or not, this shutdown, despite its prolonged closure, is not unique in its nature. Rather, it is one of twenty-one shutdowns that have taken place since 1976 when Congress established the federal budget process. However, many have been fairly quick shutdowns, with President Carter, President Clinton, President Obama, and President Trump having the most elongated standstills.

History Fast Facts

President Gerald Ford(1)-

Duration: 10 days

President Jimmy Carter(5)-

Duration: 12 days

Duration: 8 day

Duration: 8 days

Duration: 17 days

Duration: 11 days

President Ronald Reagan(8)-

Duration: 2 days

Duration: 1 day

Duration: 3 days

Duration: 3 days

Duration: 2 days

Duration: 1 day

Duration: 1 day

Duration: 1 day

President George Bush(1)-

Duration: 3 days

President Bill Clinton(2)-

Duration: 5 days

Duration: 21 days, second longest in U.S. history

President Barack Obama(1)-

Duration: 16 days

President Donald Trump(3)-

Duration: 3 days

Duration: 9 hours

Duration: 31 days and counting, longest in U.S. history

What about us?

The turmoil that has washed over our country is disheartening, and the responses to such controversy are frankly embarrassing. At what point, have we moved away from civil, educated discussions, to screaming and pounding fists? As James 1:19 puts it, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, (and) slow to anger.” As Christians, we are called to speak slowly, which means restraining from angry outbursts and responding with love and knowledge. And as one nation under God, it is only suiting that we fall back on these roots and learn to listen and speak with dignity and honor. Also, I would like to remind everyone of this happy fact: you don’t have to hate someone because you don’t agree politically. It’s absolutely absurd how many friendships have been broken over these past couple of years due to political disagreement, and it is time we stop seeing those with different views as the devil incarnate, but learn how to be respectful of those on both sides of the argument even if you don’t agree. Crazy, I know. However, the best thing we can do in this time is educate ourselves on what’s happening around us and to engage in conversations with both an open mind and an open heart, with love and grace at the center of all our talk.

Father God,

  • I ask for your hand to be over this country as we undergo political unrest and uncertainty. During a time of great divide, I ask that you can mend what’s broken and grant our leaders wisdom and guidance in their decisions.  
  • I pray that you can instill in us a spirit of love and patience. Remind us how to treat others with respect and not leap to accusations against others.
  • Most importantly Father, I ask that your will be done throughout all of this. Whatever it may be, use us as vessels to glorify Yourself. We pray for Your kingdom to come and for Your will to be done.