Government Shutdown

The 2018-2019 United States government shutdown was the longest government shutdown in history, lasting 35 days from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. This was the second government shutdown of Donald Trump’s presidency, and although both Congress and the Presidency was controlled by the Republican Party, the executive and legislative branches could not agree on the suggested appropriations bills for the 2019 fiscal year which would determine the federal budget. In some cases, Congress and the President are able to agree on an alternative to passing the ultimate federal spending bill by instead passing a temporary continuing resolution. A continuing resolution would allow the government more time to decide on the appropriations bill, giving them an extended deadline for passing the bill. However, for the 2019 fiscal year appropriations bill, no continuing resolution was agreed upon, and therefore the government was shutdown.

The reason the United States government is able to shutdown in cases such as the 2019 shutdown goes back to the Antideficiency Act, which prevents “non-essential” operations from taking place within federal departments or agencies when an appropriations bill is no longer in effect and another one has not been passed to take its place. This act forced the government to shutdown on December 22, 2018, and caused many government workers to be required to work without pay or furloughed. About one-fourth of government activities were impacted by the shutdown, this proportion including nine executive departments with around 800,000 employees that had to either partially or fully shutdown.

Each time the government is forced to shut down, it immediately begins losing money. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the shutdown cost the United States economy an estimated $11 billion, and possibly more. The shutdown and the resulting loss of money is attributed to a dispute among members of Congress and President Trump involving border security. Since the beginning of his 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump made it clear that he would have a wall built to keep immigrants from crossing the Southern border of the United States illegally. Therefore, he strongly wanted funding for the wall to be included in the 2019 appropriations bill, although due to opposition to this funding in Congress, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a spending bill that did not include funding for the wall. At the time, it appeared the bill would likely be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and then be signed by the President. However, as the process of passing the bill through Congress was taking place, conservative media outlets sensed that the bill would likely be signed despite no funding for the wall. They retaliated by criticizing President Trump, saying that he was backing out on his campaign promise.

After being pressured by the media, Trump declared that he would refuse to sign an appropriations bill that did not include funding to build the border wall. On January 25, Congress announced a funding measure that would reopen the government until February 15. Government employees were expected to have received back pay. This measure moved along with the Department of Homeland security funding which did not include funds for the border wall. It was passed by a voice vote which sent this resolution straight to the President’s desk. Trump signed and announced that the government would reopen until February 15 by announcing his support for a three week funding measure on the same day. Later, Republican senators voted unanimously to not give back pay to federal contractors. On the 13 of February it was reported that Trump was blocking the back pay to federal contractors against the wishes of both Democrats and Republicans who are still out of pocket. As of February 14, the two houses of Congress are in a disagreement on how to fully fund the federal government. This would start another government shutdown.

 As D.C. prepares for another government shutdown, the D.C. council is working to try and pass an emergency legislation that would aid federal workers. One bill proposed by Anita Bonds would stop landlords and banks from foreclosing or evicting their tenants on government workers during the next possible shutdown. Another bill proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser allows government workers who still have to go to work during a shutdown even if they are not getting paid to apply for unemployment benefits. The request by Bowser was rejected in mid-January by the Department of Labor. City officials have said that the most recent government shutdown impact about tens of thousands of D.C. federal workers. They also report that the shutdown cost them tax revenue tens of millions of dollars.