The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, after President Trump and Congress spent Friday pointing fingers and with hopes for a breakthrough slim.
Lawmakers and the president failed to reach a breakthrough that would avert the first closure since a 16-day shutdown in 2013. The government ran out of the ability to spend money at midnight Friday.
Here’s how we got here, and what could happen now that the White House and lawmakers didn't reach a deal:
What does it mean for our region?
Immediately, it might not mean much — unless you work for the federal government. Then you might start losing pay, and that would certainly be a squeeze.
For others, however, the shutdown's effects are likely to take place more slowly. This isn’t a Cinderella situation: the government (mostly) didn't turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight.
During the last shutdown in 2013, which lasted for 16 days, nearly 50,000 federal employees in the Philadelphia and Camden metropolitan areas were furloughed without pay. Congress later authorized back pay for the 850,000 total workers who were furloughed.
Some 4,000 employees at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the New Jersey National Guard were initially furloughed. They returned to work after the Defense Department determined they contributed to military readiness.
Social Security beneficiaries continued to receive checks, and recipients of food stamps and school lunch programs also still got benefits.
In an update early Saturday morning, Valley Forge National Historical Park said that all park buildings, like its visitor center, would be closed "due to the lapse in federal appropriations." Park grounds, roads, trails and parking areas will stay open for public use.
A similar sign was posted at Independence National Historical Park in Center City, where tourists were being denied up-close access to the Liberty Bell.
The door to the visitor center at Independence National Park. pic.twitter.com/ywEkvcrTtq
— Stacey Burling (@StaceyABurling) January 20, 2018
Tourists peering at the Liberty Bell through the window thanks to the federal shutdown. pic.twitter.com/wTXTbtR303
— Stacey Burling (@StaceyABurling) January 20, 2018
How did we get here?
This drama traces back to President Trump’s decision in September to end an Obama-era program shielding from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
But Trump set a March expiration date for the so-called “Dreamers,” and urged Congress to find a different solution to offer them some respite, without offering one of his own.
The issue became a cause celebre on the left as many feared for the fate of some 800,000 people who could suddenly face deportation. The issue has become a litmus test for liberals as they urge Democrats to fight.
Trump seemed open to a bipartisan deal on dreamers earlier this month, only to abruptly reverse course. That has ratcheted up Democratic determination to force the issue. They worry that if they don’t get a deal now, Republicans might never address the topic and the program will simply expire without a fix.
They have leverage because even though Republicans control Congress and passed a short-term funding bill in the House, the measure needs 60 votes to avert a filibuster and pass in the Senate. The GOP, hoping to avoid a shutdown on its watch, has offered Democrats six years of funding for a children’s health program, CHIP.
But nearly every Democrat has held firm in opposition. Several Republicans were also holding out over concerns about immigration and how short-term bills affect the military.
What roles did local legislators play?
Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey faced the most pressure to cross the aisle and vote for a short-term funding bill — but he was refusing to budge.
The senator said the GOP bill fell short because it didn't provide funding for community health centers or coal miner pensions, two long simmering issues that he argued won’t get addressed if Congress keeps passing short-term bills. He also argued that the bipartisan bill to aid dreamers should be included.
“We can get all this done if Republicans just figure out a way to govern,” Casey said Friday morning. “You have to stay in the room and not say you’re going to come back in three weeks or three months.”
He argued for a three or four day funding bill to keep the government open and buy time to solve those other issues. His position has enthused liberals, but Republicans hope to make him pay as he runs for reelection.
“Will Senator Casey do his job and vote to keep the government open? Or, will Senator Casey vote to shut the government down and deny funding for our military, veterans, seniors, and the longest extension of health insurance for children ever?” asked Jon Anzur, a spokesman for the leading GOP Senate candidate, Rep. Lou Barletta.
New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez have been outspoken critics of the GOP’s funding plan, arguing that a solution for dreamers is essential.
That’s not surprising: they represent a liberal state, with a large immigrant population. Menendez is one of the most prominent Hispanic lawmakers in the country and Booker is widely seen as positioning himself for a presidential run.
The region’s lone Republican Senator, Pat Toomey, supports the House plan to keep the government running.
How unexpected was the shutdown?
As of Friday afternoon, it was looking fairly likely that the federal government would shut down.
Odds were “50 to 60 percent” according to Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Democrats and Republicans were both digging in, arguing that the other side would take the blame, effectively playing a game of political chicken. That has not created an atmosphere ripe for compromise.
Of course, Congress has long operated by brinkmanship and there is plenty of history of last-second deals to avert crises.
Both parties face risks with the shuttered government. Republicans, who control the White House and both chambers of Congress, are open to charges that they can’t govern. President Trump — who has a keen sense of the power of symbolism and grand gestures — faces the prospect of a shutdown beginning on the exact day of his inauguration anniversary.
But Republicans are also pressing to cast blame on vulnerable Senate Democrats. They pressured Democrats in states that Trump won, including Casey, warning that they would take the heat for a shutdown.