Millennium Post

US shutdown

That the US government would shut down last weekend and till, practically, all of Monday was inevitable. Several declarations were made by the President that were found unacceptable by many Senators. Most of them were Democrats. Not that "shutdowns" are anything new, it has happened 12 times before, but the phrase "government shutdown" crops up every few months, and now this was for real. Congress was facing a Friday, January 19 deadline to pass a spending bill, which helped determine the government's budget and discretionary spending for the fiscal year. Without it, the government had no alternative to shutting down. What triggered the situation was that much of the debate was focused on immigration and specifically on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme. The risk of government shutdown stemmed from the government's inability to agree on how to fund the programme. Many budget issues that should have been agreed upon before the end of last year were pushed into 2018 via a series of continuing resolutions, which used stopgap measures to delay the deadline. These resolutions were what left them with the current Jan 19 deadline to come to an agreement on this year's government budget. Unfortunately, for those hoping for speedy consensus, the continuing resolutions also temporarily extended a number of programmes that divided the two parties. This included funding for the Children's Health Insurance Programme (CHIP) and for disaster relief. Several Senate Democrats threatened not to vote on either short-or long-term spending bills that did not include a measure that addressed the thousands of undocumented immigrants that were currently protected by DACA. In an attempt to avoid a shutdown, House Republicans put forward another stopgap bill on Tuesday that would fund the government through Feb 16. Significantly, however, it did not include protections for DACA but extended funding for CHIP for six years. This put Democrats in a precarious situation: either they could vote in favour of the bill and jeopardise the safety of the young immigrants living in the US known as Dreamers or vote against the bill and potentially trigger a government shutdown. Even with this resolution, Congress would have found itself in a similar position come its expiration in February. Without an agreement on a continuing resolution by the weekend, the government would not have been authorised to spend any money, prompting the inevitable shutdown. Many federal agencies, therefore, were forced to close and government workers were unable to work. Workers deemed "essential," such as those who work in security and law enforcement, were not included. During the last government shutdown in October 2013, 850,000 federal workers were furloughed, equal to nearly 40 per cent of the government workforce. The shutdown lasted for 16 days, triggered by a disagreement over Obamacare. It then cost the economy an estimated $24 billion. This time the Democrats took the initiative, necessary formalities completed soon and the government was back in action again. The President, not unexpectedly, called them "losers", but " Thank God for small mercies".
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