On December 22, 2018, the U.S. government shut down because President Donald Trump and Democratic politicians could not come to an agreement on funding for a wall for the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump has requested $5.7 billion and refuses to back down. This has caused the government to be shut down for over a month so far. This has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history on January 12, 2019, surpassing the 21-day shutdown of 1995-1996 when Bill Clinton was President. The government has been shut down a total of 20 times since the first shutdown in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. That shutdown lasted only 10 days.
The shutdown affects various departments, putting people out of work. This includes the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury. “Essential” federal workers are required to work without pay, at lease the ones who are not are furloughed or placed on temporary leave. Some federal employees have sued the government because they have been required to work without pay. Many people are concerned they won’t receive their tax refunds since the government is shut down. Although the agency has stopped a number of their services, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be issuing tax refunds.
The employees who are temporarily furloughed due to the shutdown are eligible for unemployment benefits as long as they meet other eligibility requirements. President Trump signed a bill that guarantees back pay for the federal workers who have been furloughed during this shutdown. This promises that the workers will be reimbursed once the government is open again.
There are still services that will continue through the shutdown. People will still receive their Social Security checks, but the issuance of Social Security cards is at a halt. Passports will also be able to be issued. Active military is still serving, along with air traffic controllers, prison guards, and border control agents. People will continue to receive their mail because the Postal Service is self-funded. School lunch program will continue, but only until the funding runs out.
President Trump rejected a proposal by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham January 14. She encouraged Trump to reopen the government for three weeks to allow for talks on the border wall to continue. Graham said if that failed after those three weeks, Trump could go ahead and declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and get money for the wall.
The Democrats do not agree with President Trump’s desire for a wall. They believe it is expensive and ineffective, but they are willing to fund other types of security measures that do not include the border wall. Democrats took control of the House on January 3 and they passed a two-bill spending package aimed at immediately re-opening the government. The package includes $1.3 billion for border fencing and $300 million for other border security items such as technology and cameras.
There is no clear end in sight for this shutdown. There are various options that could bring the shutdown to an end. President Trump can decide to reopen without funding for the border wall. The worst-case scenario would be that he keeps the government shutdown until 2020 when his term ends. If he is re-elected he can continue the shutdown. This means over 800,000 federal workers going without a paycheck for 2+ years.