Here’s how it works: each fiscal year, until congress comes up with a detailed budget resolution, federal funding is allocated month by month, through a type of stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution. Congress has already passed three CRs in fiscal year 2018, and the one that failed last night would have been the fourth. However, the Senate failed to reach an agreement on that resolution, and so at midnight last night, the previous CR expired. As a result, this morning there was no CR or Budget in effect, and so all nonessential personnel employed by the government have been placed on furlough.
A government shutdown mostly affects programs that are funded by annual appropriations, not including law enforcement and the military. In 2013, the last time the Government shut down, that meant about 40% of nonmilitary federal employees went home (the elected officials responsible for a shutdown still get paid, because they’ve written their $175,000 annual salaries into law).
It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a major annoyance for millions of Americans. So now there’s the question of “when will the government get back to work?” but the more pressing question in Washington right now seems to be “whose fault is it?”
The Democrats’ position is that this shutdown is a Republican shutdown (a #TrumpShutdown, in fact). After all, this sort of thing usually only happens when the government is deeply divided, and right now, the government is clearly controlled by Republicans. The GOP holds the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. This is the first time the government has ever shut down while one party controlled everything.
Another reason the Democrats are calling this a Trump Shutdown: the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP. In September of 2017, CHIP expired, leaving nearly nine million children vulnerable and without a health insurance safety net. Instead of reauthorizing the bipartisan program, Republican lawmakers have taken to using it as a bargaining chip. When Democrats announced that they wouldn’t vote for a CR that didn’t include protections for DACA recipients, Republicans offered to extend CHIP for six years, but made no move to compromise on DACA. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party’s position clear in a controversial tweet.
Democrats have been adamant that they would support a clean CHIP reauthorization act, but not one that’s tacked onto a CR that fails to protect Dreamers.
The Republicans’ position, on the other hand is that this is a Democratic shutdown (or a #SchumerShutdown, named after New York Senator Chuck Schumer). They argue that the DACA issue does not require immediate resolution, and that the shutdown is the fault of Democrats who obstructed the passage of the CR Friday. Their goal for the shutdown is to make it look as if Senate Democrats are making a political move at the expense of CHIP.
In the end, it being a midterm election year, the most important voice is that of the American Voter. To this tune, a number of news organizations have surveyed the public in recent days, in an attempt to determine just how this shutdown will affect what goes down in November. The results are overwhelming; the public blames Republicans for the shutdown by a 20-point margin, according to a new Washington Post-ABC Poll. Independent voters blame the administration by a 40-point margin, a good sign for Democrats who hope to retake the House this year.
On a day marking the beginning of his second year in office, the President is attacking on some fronts, and falling back on others. His tweets today have been celebratory, but in private, it’s reported that the President believes that he will be blamed for the shutdown by the public. If that’s to be believed, then it would seem the President has finally started to tune in to what the people think– and it only took a year.