By Caroline Mathews, National News Writer
Congress approved a measure on Monday, January 22, to fund the government for an additional three weeks and end the three-day shutdown that came into effect on Friday, January 19, under the condition that GOP leaders will present an immigration bill to the floor within the coming weeks. Following suit, House representatives approved the bill in a 266-150 vote. President Donald Trump signed the bill Monday night, effectively ending the shutdown. While the bill will keep the federal government running through February 8th, it has done little to resolve the crux of policy fights over immigration and government expenditures. Furthermore, it does not preclude, or prevent another similar shutdown from potentially occurring next month.
But what does a federal shutdown actually refer to? A government shutdown occurs whenever Congress does not approve a federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year, effectively closing the nonessential functions of the U.S. government until lawmakers can agree on a budget. The sticking point to fault for the three-day shutdown is the bickering between Democrats and Republicans over whether to include immigration measures – i.e. a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Democrats are blaming GOP leadership—who control the White House and both houses of Congress, for the mess; meanwhile, Republicans, who require the cooperation of the other side to pass the funding bill by a margin of 60 votes, are blaming the Democrats.
A governmental shutdown does not necessarily mean all federal operations are halted – only the ones deemed nonessential: nonessential federal employees, then, are furloughed, meaning they are sent home with their pay docked (although these workers can be paid retroactively during this time). Nonessential jobs may include working at national parks or monuments, the processing of passport and visa applications, and the maintenance of government websites. During the last shutdown in 2013, which lasted 16 days, 850,000 executive-branch employees were furloughed. Many of the government’s primary duties continue to function during the shutdown, but with the consequence that workers may not receive pay. Despite the absence of workers’ compensation, standard procedures remain enforced – the border will continue to be patrolled, national security and law enforcement will remain functional, air traffic controllers will remain on the job, and most of the active military will continue to operate. Federal workers often recieve their pay weeks after the shutdown is resolved, which occured during the last major government shutdown.
In 2013, the workers eventually received about $2 billion in delayed compensation for the furloughed time. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that the lost hours—specifically those at national parks, permit offices, federal loan programs, etc.—lowered economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 by 0.3 percent. The leading contributors to that slowdown included limited tourist activities and delayed checks, which had the effect of squeezing consumer spending. According to some analyses, the combination of indirect and direct costs accumulated as much as 0.6 percent ($24 billion) of quarterly Gross Domestic Product. Unlike 2013, however, the Trump administration last week worked to subdue the effects by keeping some national parks open and deeming more employees to be “essential.” According to the chief economist of S&P Global, Beth Ann Bovino: “this will simply go down as a “blip” for the U.S. economy, although the problem could repeat itself in February when the temporary spending bill runs out.” Bipartisan cooperation will be imperative in order to avoid a repeated shutdown in the month of February.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.
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