US Senate Nears Shutdown

On Thursday, January 18th, the United States House of Representatives voted by a margin of 230-197 for a budget bill to extend funding through February 16, effectively ending a government shutdown. However, there are still concerns regarding which way members of the Senate will vote, leaving many U.S. citizens scared as to the possible ramifications of a shutdown.

To pass, the bill would only need a grand total of 60 votes of the 100-member chamber. However, Republicans only hold 51 of these seats, meaning at least a dozen Democrats will need to change their votes in order to pass this bill. So far, only one has shown any interest in switching, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Furthermore, some Republicans still oppose the bill, displeased with the distribution of funding. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is opposed because he wanted a marked increase in military spending and a finalized immigration deal. Others, such as Rand Paul, have been outspoken about concerns in regard to the federal debt. Even if a dozen Democrats switch sides, at least one Republican would also need to switch back in order to pass this bill.

The main point of contention between the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate has been the Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with their parents. Former President Barack Obama provided over 700,000 of these Dreamers temporary legal status. However, in September President Donald Trump announced the end of the program, with a deadline set to March for Congress to establish a replacement option. Instead, he placed the focus on his desire for stronger border controls, mainly in the form of the U.S.-Mexico border wall he has supported since his candidacy.

In an attempt to have Democrats vote for the temporary bill, one which does not have allowances for Dreamers, the Republicans have added a number of sweeteners or measures which they have been attempting to obtain for years. The main sweetener is a six-year extension to a health-insurance program for children in low-income families, a priority for Democrats for years. Should Senate Democrats vote against this, there is a potential backlash about where their priorities lay. However, they insist they want the program extended permanently, a greater win in exchange for the Dreamers program.

Neither political party wants to take the blame, although President Trump has gone on the record multiple times saying it is the Democrats who are the holdouts and thus the cause of the potential shutdown. However, a new Washington Post-ABC poll claims that by a 20-point margin, Americans blame Trump and the Republican Party for this issue, stating they are not willing to give up ground to the Democrats in order to keep the nation from a devastating shutdown.

Should a government shutdown take a place, many individuals are put on a forced leave of absence. During the 2013 government shutdown, which lasted for a total of 16 days, an estimated 800,000 of 2.1 million civilian federal employees were out of work. Despite this, during the shutdown, essential services such as national security, the post office, air traffic control, medical services, prisons, taxation, and electricity production, among others, would still run in order to keep the nation functioning.

National parks and monuments face potential closure, although the Trump administration is reportedly working out plans to keep the parks open to the public should the shutdown happen. Visa and passport processing also face potential delays.

However, even in the departments which remain open, a percentage of personnel are out of work. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that 50 percent of his departments would be out of work, and training and numerous intelligence operations would come to a halt. “We do a lot of intelligence operations around the world and they cost money, these obviously would stop.”

Hopefully, in the few remaining hours, the two parties are able to come to an agreement in the Senate, otherwise, the nation is looking at a shutdown that can cost the country billions of dollars, as the 2013 shutdown did.

Jordan Meyerl