Will There be a Government Shutdown Over Wall Funding?
On Sunday, President Donald Trump stated he is now “willing” to shutdown the government yet again to ensure that his key issue of border security receives the funding it needs. It began with a tweet, followed and confirmed in a press conference with the Italian Prime Minister the next day.
His initial tweet issued demands to Congress, particularly the Democrats, to fund the border wall construction and “get rid of lottery, catch and release etc.,” or face another government shutdown. In later tweets the next day, he described a government shutdown as a “very small price to pay for a safe and prosperous America.” He also predicted the Democrats would not be willing to cooperate without a shutdown.
At his press conference, he praised the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his tougher immigration policies, assuring Conte that he is “doing the right thing” in his opinion. Conte is one of the several new European leaders elected on right-wing nationalist sentiments, particularly the public backlash against the EU’s open immigration policy and the acceptance of refugees. Trump also made a significant point about the US’s trade deficit with Italy at the conference, criticizing the shortcomings of American economic policy and promising to “straighten that out pretty quickly.”
Border security is a top concern among many Americans as well, who are unhappy with non taxable workers who work for below minimum wage and collect welfare benefits from citizens’ tax dollars. Trump’s border wall project, much boasted throughout his campaign and the first half of his presidency, has been met with steep opposition and only very early construction measures have begun.
Under the Trump Presidency, there have already been two government shutdowns, when Congress has failed to agree on a budget. The first was caused by Democrats refusing to approve anything without the specific inclusion of illegal immigrant protection programs such as DACA continue to be funded. The second was a dispute over potentially increasing the country’s borrowing limit in order to fund disaster relief for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. It was quickly ended when Trump signed a spending bill with increased provisions in excess of 300 billion dollars over the next two years.
Short-term government shutdowns have very little impact on the lives of most Americans. For many, the worst they will encounter is being unable to visit national parks. Since all essential government functions, such as the military and national guard, are unchanged, the impact on the economy’s functionality is minimal. The biggest losses come from federal employees who are barred from working and therefore payment. Government research programs and administrative regulations are temporarily halted, which has historically delayed payment to over a million workers in 2013. The threat of a shutdown is therefore mostly poor optics. It is a political tool, like the filibuster, to attempt to exhaust the opposition into caving into one’s demands.
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