The government shutdown is officially tied for the longest shutdown in U.S. history — 21 days — and there is no end in sight.
Even three weeks of the shutdown has wrought serious damage. It does not just hurt the 800,000 individuals who are missing their paychecks, but there’s the considerable dent that will put on their related consumer spending. Contractors and others dependent on government work are losing business. According to a report in Politico, the shutdown will cost $1.2 billion a week — based on the calculations of Trump’s own chief economist.
But the harm goes beyond the pain of federal workers and the impact on their spending.
Since Dec. 31, the Environmental Protection Agency ran out of funding, meaning that clean up of water, air, and Superfund sites are being delayed and the response capacity for a hazard like an industrial waste spill into water is limited — if the EPA even learns about it, since inspections are also delayed.
Due to lapse of funding, Federal Aviation Administration workers are on furlough, meaning that aircraft certification and safety reporting has been suspended. A group of 34 aviation industry associations warned in a letter that the longer the shutdown continues, the more likely it is that a tragedy will occur. Does a plane need to crash for this disaster to end?
The impetus for the shutdown is based in politics, not policy — a Hail Mary attempt by President Trump to secure funding for his cherished border wall.
How did the Founding Fathers, who were so careful in creating checks and balances on the executive branch, leave a giant loophole allowing one person to shut down the entire federal government?
The legislative branch is an equal branch of government to the executive. Congress works with the White House, not for the White House. The most explicit process that the Founding Fathers created to enshrine that relationship is the ability of Congress to override a veto with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
Two days before the shutdown, in December, the Senate passed a bill to keep the government open until February without funding for Trump’s wall — giving time for both sides to negotiate a deal. Not a single senator opposed the bill. The then-Republican controlled House did not vote on the Senate approved short-term spending bill and passed its own bill that included the $5.7 billion that Trump is requesting. Neither went anywhere.
That is not how the Founding Fathers intended for the Congress to operate.
President Trump is the cause of this shutdown, but he is also the scapegoat for its continuation. The Founding Fathers gave the Senate the ability to override a veto for instances exactly like the one we are in now.