As the shutdown approaches the fifth week, Americans are increasingly becoming more concerned about it.
On December 22, just as the Americans were getting ready to officially kick off the holiday season, something unexpected happened: a partial US government shutdown. While for many, the day-to-day life has remained the same even with the shutdown, as the impasse now enters its fourth week, the strain has started to show.
As Thursday marked the 27th day of the shutdown, Americans are increasingly becoming more concerned about the longest ever government shutdown in the US history.
But first the basics.
So, what exactly is a government shutdown? A government shutdown happens when non-essential, federal programs considered discretionary close down. It happens when Congress fails to appropriate funds. Many federal programs and government agencies rely on annual funding appropriations that Congress makes. In a normal process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 each year for the next fiscal year. In case that does not happen, then a continued funding resolution is enacted by Congress. But if Congress cannot agree on a funding resolution, it leads to a shutdown. During the shutdown, essential services continue to function as usual.
What happened on December 21? The ongoing shutdown began on the midnight of December 21. In what is currently being called the longest ever government shutdown, about 380,000 employees considered non-critical were left home without pay. On January 11, Congress passed a bill to reimburse lost wages for federal exempt employees once the shutdown ends. However, the contract workers will not be paid.
And now about the wall: The current shutdown is about a wall or physical barrier that President Donald Trump wants to build on the border of the United States and Mexico. The president has requested $5.7 billion for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border. According to the administration a physical barrier or a wall will slow down and contain illegal entries. There is at present already fencing along about 690 miles of the border between U.S. and Mexico. Trump wants to build new steel barriers along 234 miles of the southern border. Trump’s demand for a wall has received a continued objection from critics and Democrats including all the Indian American members of Congress. However, House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has refused to give the president the money he is asking, resulting in a stalemate.
The critics’ view: Trump’s demand for a wall has received a continued objection from critics and Democrats including all Indian American members of Congressmen. Explaining why a physical barrier is an obsolete demand, immigration activist and lawyer Rekha Sharma-Crawford says, “The President ran on a core promise: He will build a wall between Mexico and the United States. This is all this fight is over. Experts have repeatedly said that the wall is not the answer. This is because most undocumented immigrants are visa overstays. And they come from all over the world. Apart from Mexico, China, India, the Philippines and El Salvador comprise the top countries of origin. For the most part, they do not arrive from the southern border and a wall would not prevent their entry. It is also the case that the undocumented population from Mexico — which used to be the largest population at one time — has decreased consistently since 2016. The wall is all about giving a material face to the vilification of a group of people. It should be understood that national security and a border wall is not the same thing. We can all agree that national security is crucial, but erecting a wall and claiming the boarder is secure is fundamentally flawed logic.”
How the shutdown affects us? The shutdown has left about 800,000 federal workers without pay. While to control the effects of the shutdown the administration recalled on January 15, tens of thousands of employees back to work, even though without a pay, the White House has itself acknowledged that the partial shutdown is having more effects on the economy than estimated. The departments that are shut down, because their spending bills expired, include Agriculture, Homeland Security, Commerce, State, Transportation, Justice, Treasury, NASA and Housing and Urban Development. Some independent agencies are also shut during the period. Many Indian American politicians have been vocally speaking about the toll shut down is taking on people. Padma Kuppa, state representative from Michigan’s 41st district, while talking to the American Bazaar on how the shutdown affect an average American says, “National level issues are important. However, as a state legislator, I am focused on what we are doing at the local level. But knowing that my constituents may not get their tax returns or home loans processed is deeply concerning to me. Plus, having workers performing their jobs without pay is deeply unfair, and will have significant impact on our economy. But like Michigan Governor [Gretchen] Whitmer has said, I believe we need to build bridges, not walls.”
Democrat Ro Khanna, R-CA, tweeted Wednesday about how the shutdown is beginning to show its many effects. He wrote: “Not only is this shutdown leaving over 800,000 hardworking Americans without a paycheck, but now FDA food safety inspections have been completely stopped. If Trump is concerned about keeping people safe, he needs to stop holding the government hostage.”
Ami Bera: Shutdown is another crisis of ‘Trump’s own doing’ (January 14, 2019)
Ro Khanna: ‘No more games. End this shutdown now’ (January 9, 2019)