The U.S. government briefly shut down Saturday, Jan. 20. As Congress members struggled to reach a decision on the “Dreamers” bill, members passed a movement not to fund the government until an agreement was made. Democrats were also hard-pressed to come to an agreement on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) during the shutdown. The shutdown ended on Jan. 22, with President Donald Trump passing temporary funding for the government until Feb. 8 and reauthorizing the CHIP program for another six years.
The issue at the head of the shutdown was the decision concerning “Dreamers,” or individuals who immigrated at a young age to the U.S. and received temporary citizenship. a favored continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which would allow childhood immigrants time to become naturalized citizens. However, Republicans and Trump wanted to take a stricter stance against immigration and end the deferment time for child immigrants. Despite the House and Senate being occupied by a Republican majority, the 60-vote minimum needed to end DACA could not be reached.
Decisions surrounding DACA have caused division in government and among the U.S. population since President Trump’s inauguration in Jan. 2017. A string of national protests including the Women’s Marches coincidentally began in major cities across the U.S. on the same day as the government shutdown, some using DACA as a major point of discussion. Many voters see deferment for childhood immigrants as a benefit to a vulnerable population, as many childhood immigrants are fleeing violence in their home country. Other voters believe that allowing immigrants in with little to no checking could cause security problems, a sentiment shared by the current U.S. President.
Monday, Jan. 22, the government shutdown ended with the promise to make a decision about “Dreamers” in the next few weeks. While Democrats wanted to make a decision over the weekend, Republicans delayed their efforts by proposing an ultimatum on the CHIP policy, which provides free healthcare to uninsured children. Republicans, with two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, gave Democrats the choice of either voting on CHIP and deciding on DACA later, or voting to keep DACA and missing the chance to reauthorize CHIP.
With the state of government funding up in the air until Feb. 8, average U.S. citizens are left with questions and concerns. Suspending funding, either during the shutdown weekend or in the future, means that many who rely on U.S. government for social support, social security and jobs would be without pay. A solution will be hard to come by, and the question remains: how will it affect everyday people?
Expert Corner: written by Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan, Professor of Political Science
Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan, who teaches political science and ethics at Etown, is familiar with federal government shutdowns; they are not uncommon. Despite the severity of the word “shutdown,” governments take temporary breaks to resolve issues, especially financial issues.
“The federal government often shuts down when Congress is negotiating the federal budget,” McClellan said, “and that was the case this time – Congress Democrats and Republicans had disagreements on where the federal budget should go.”
However, this shutdown is unique from the most recent in 2013 under President Obama’s administration. The 2013 shutdown was caused by disagreements between the President, a Democrat, and a mostly Republican Congress. In the case of the Jan. 20 shutdown, both the President and a majority of members of Congress were Republican.
“Settling the budget should have been easy under these circumstances,” McClellan said. “However, disagreements and a lack of strong leadership led congressmen to shut down the government in order to come to a decision.”
Many voters are concerned that the recent shutdown foreshadows problems to come in this administration.
“When shutdowns happen, people become more critical of their government and their leader. There are a lot of divisions in this administration and shutdowns are likely to continue, possibly with painful results,” McClellan said.