One year after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the US Government shutdown. From 20-23 January, non essential government services stopped working throughout the US, and thousands of federal workers stopped being paid.
The shutdown happened as the Senate failed to approve spending plans for February, which required 60 votes to pass. 51 of the total 100 seats are held by Republicans, meaning they needed at least nine Democrats to vote against their party whip. Five did, but so did five Republicans. The result was a stalled bill and the resulting shutdown.
The rebelling Democrats refused to vote for the bill on multiple grounds, but chiefly, that it didn’t provide adequate protection for the ‘dreamers,’ the name used for undocumented US migrants who came to the country as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump allegedly dismissed any chance of a bipartisan deal in an infamous “shithole countries” meeting, as he continued to follow the hard line he drew on immigration throughout the election campaign.
The last time this happened was under the Obama administration in 2013, in which the US House of Representatives failed to agree on the provisions regarding the Affordable Health Care Act. This shutdown lasted a total of 16 days before it was resolved. This was, however, the first time since 1980 in which all three branches of government were controlled by the same party.
When trying to press Trump to accept the DACA provisions, Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, met with Donald Trump in private, hoping to secure some form of bipartisan provision, however no agreement was managed, and Schumer later claimed that the President “did not press his party to accept it.”
However, after a weekend of backdoor talks throughout Washington, Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell managed to come to an agreement which would end the shutdown.
The deal included six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a controversial sticking point before the shutdown, however it did not include any legislative protection for the dreamers, prompting outrage from liberal Democrats, some of whom branded Schumer the “worst negotiator” in Washington. Schumer only managed to leave the negotiations with a promise from McConnell, a promise saying that the majority leader will move the debate on immigration to gain a bipartisan solution.
Kamala Harris, a California Senator and potential Democratic front runner in 2020 doubted the agreement, stating “it would be foolhardy to believe that he made a commitment.”
Looking onwards, Schumer will hope his gamble pays off, but if McConnell backtracks on his immigration pledge, we could be looking at another shutdown come February.