Government shutdown deepens bipartisanship


Creative Commons image through Flickr by AFGE

A woman from the American Federation of Government employees (AFGE) labor union displays a sign on a Styrofoam plate. She is participating in a silent protest at the Hart Senate building, where the AFGE assembled and dedicated 33 minutes of silence for every day the government was shut down at that point.

The controversial border wall issue has stricken the country with bipartisan turmoil once again, this time taking a hit at the paychecks of federal workers. After debate in Senate over its funding, a decision was made to partially shut down the government, a decision that would cause more harm to federal workers than resolution in the border wall issue, as well as further ingraining the political divide in the country.

Starting Dec. 22, 2018, the United States government was shut down for 35 days in response to the border wall crisis. This was caused by President Donald Trump’s request for $5.7 billion to build the wall on the Mexico/United States border.  A bill to fund the wall was never properly established, despite attempts in Congress.

Democrats tried to ensure that the bill included funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, giving illegal child immigrants a renewable two-year period without deportation and the opportunity to obtain a work permit, as well as including protection of immigrants under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act.

Republicans, however, refused to pass these bills. Senate then voted to extend the continuing resolution (CR), which then failed to pass. This ultimately led to the government shutdown.

The Effect on the People

The main issue regarding the shutdown is the effect on federal workers. Around 800,000 workers employed by the government were forced to go 35 days either furloughed (meaning given temporary unpaid leave from work) or working without pay. This shows the problem with shutting down the government. Taking nearly a month’s worth of pay from a federal worker is unethical.

“There are lots and lots of people that work for the government and do good work, an I don’t think they deserve to be a part of the political dysfunction,” government teacher Jerry Washburn said.

The shutdown had an overall negative impact on the country because it affected people outside of Congress where the root of the problem lied. People employed by the government lost paychecks and work time over another of the many bipartisan debates prevalent in the country. The fact that the debate over border security meddled into the everyday lives of people not directly involved is an issue in itself.

We’re a country that’s very disunited right now and I think that ultimately it’s causing more partisanship. People are getting more and more mad over it from all sides of the aisle. It’s weird because the more disunited we become through issues like this, it just causes more arguments and more disunion.”

— Drew Jurek

“The only effects I have seen have been the negative financial effects on citizens and the impact on peoples’ lives,” senior Cate Strub said.

The shutdown also affected government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other welfare programs. It threw off the schedule of February food stamps and forced recipients of SNAP benifits to budget themselves in order to eat.

“I followed this topic because I became concerned for government employees not getting paid and those of food stamps and welfare programs not getting the resources they need,” Strub said.

The Border Wall Debate 

This was a poor settlement of the border wall funding debate. When the government shut down, the ability to normally function parts of the government became an impossibility. Shutting down the government instead of collaborating to find a middle-ground solution for border security.

While the government is shut down “we can’t get anything done,” Washburn said.

Out of all the possibilities for border security, such as improved technology, renovated and well-staffed ports of entry, and immigrant policy reform, the wall is not the best option, since it is too costly (costing around $5.7 billion) and socially troublesome. Keeping immigrants from the Southern border almost entirely out of a country full of people with immigrant ancestry presents a moral debate.

“It’s kind of a single silly issue to focus on… it’s a small part of border security,” Washburn said.

The Lack of Compromise

If both parties could have worked out a compromise that ensured security at the border without the financial and social difficulties of the border wall, the shutdown could have been prevented. The political divide in Congress, and even in the whole country, creates tensions that slow the process of collaborating and compromising.

Both parties should have been a little more neutral in the debate in order to cooperate, Washburn said.

One of the things the government shutdown further emphasized was the bipartisan divide in the country. With conservatives striving to ensure the border wall is built and liberals seeking to establish a safe and inclusive immigrant policy, two defined stances are present, yet both are guilty of failing to compromise.

“We’re a country that’s very disunited right now and I think that ultimately it’s causing more partisanship. People are getting more and more mad over it from all sides of the aisle. It’s weird because the more disunited we become through issues like this, it just causes more arguments and more disunion,” sophomore Drew Jurek said.

The government shutdown exposed one key issue: dysfunction. It gave a poor solution to the usual bipartisan debates and further deepened the disagreement over border security instead of truly cooperating to find a solution that is best for the people as a whole.

“It just builds more of that dysfunction,” Washburn said.