The partial shutdown of the federal government officially became the longest of the modern budgeting era on Saturday, as it entered day 22 with no end in sight.
By making it into the fourth week, the shutdown surpassed the 21-day funding lapse in 1995 and 1996 as the longest since the modern budgeting system was implemented in 1974. Where the new bar will end up remains to be seen as President Donald Trump and Democrats appear to be nowhere close to resolving the standoff over money for the president’s long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border, despite constant discussions and posturing.
Well, how did we get here?
While the fight probably started as soon as Trump declared that he would build a wall along the US-Mexico border if elected in 2016, the shutdown officially started on December 22 — after Trump refused to support a bill that extended funding for some government agencies through February 8.
The Senate had passed the clean funding bill just days before federal funding expired, and Trump was poised to sign off on the measure before pushback from conservative TV pundits, such as Ann Coulter, swayed the president. Trump suddenly declared that the clean funding bill was not agreeable, leading to a standoff with Democrats.
The two sides barely talked over the holiday break, and talks in the new year have been acrimonious at best. In fact, Trump has even gone so far as to suggest that he could try and declare a national emergency in order to get funds for the wall, bypassing Congress altogether.
The most recent round of negotiations ended when Trump stormed out of the Situation Room after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flatly refused to fund the president’s wall, even if the government was reopened. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump slammed the table on his way out, but the White House disputed the accusation.
Trump’s tweet after the encounter on Wednesday probably serves as a neat summation of the state of affairs.
“Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time,” Trump said. “I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!”
Once in a lifetime
The shutdown marks the 21st time since the budget process was overhauled in 1974 that the federal government has experienced a funding lapse.
The previous shutdowns have averaged eight days, but the current shutdown will push that average up to at least 8 1/2 days. Shutdowns have also been getting longer recently. Excluding the nine-hour shutdown in February 2018 caused by Sen. Rand Paul, shutdowns since 1990 have averaged 11 days.
The current government shutdown is also only the 10th shutdown to have workers on furlough, with the practice becoming much more common in recent years. Every shutdown since 1990, save the Rand Paul lapse, has forced workers to go on furlough.
Additionally, Trump is the only president to place federal employees on furlough while one party controlled both chambers of Congress — which Republicans did during both the January 2018 shutdown and the current one.
The current shutdown is also the only funding lapse during which a chamber of Congress changed party control. Democrats took over the House on January 3.
The latest shutdown also marks a total of three funding lapses during Trump’s presidency, giving him the third most of any president, behind former President Jimmy Carter’s five and former President Ronald Reagan’s eight. Trump also ranks fourth in total shutdown days for modern presidents, behind Carter’s 67 days and the 28-day mark shared by former President Bill Clinton and Reagan.
And 2018 became just the second year of the modern era to have three funding lapses, tying 1977’s record.
Letting the days go by
As the shutdown drags on, the effects from the government closures are becoming more and more noticeable.
The shutdown does not affect all agencies because Congress passed bills to fund some departments, such as the departments of Defense and Energy in September, but there are many departments that are closed, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, the Interior, State, Transportation, and the Housing and Urban Development.
Some 420,000 workers at those agencies have been deemed “essential” and therefore are continuing to work without pay during the closure. The other 380,000 have been furloughed, or barred from coming into work and left without pay.
The essential workers will immediately receive back pay when the shutdown ends, and Congress passed a bill on Friday that would give the furloughed workers back pay once the government reopens. Trump still needs to sign the bill.
In addition to the lost paychecks, there is a slew of other problems caused by the shutdown, including: