US Government Shutdown: The End Or Just The Beginning?

Senate Democrats in the capitol hill agreed to reopen the government on Monday after it was in a state of shutdown for three days, by voting for a temporary funding bill along with the Republicans. The Democratic leadership agreed to back the bill after accepting promises from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell for a later debate on the future of young illegal immigrants known as “the dreamers”.

Many Republican voters have criticised the Democrats and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in particular, for being obstructionist. Although it is worth remembering that many Republicans like Ted Cruz, who expressed anger at the obstructionist tactics of the Democrats, were the ones who effectively forced the 2013 Government shutdown as an effort to defund Obamacare. Ironically, Mr.Schumer has been criticised by the Democrat voters too, for whom protecting “dreamers” is an emotive issue. After the Democrats helped in passing the temporary spending bill in the Senate by 81-18, Democrat voters have alleged that the Democrats leaders in the Senate are not serious about protecting the dreamers. Stephanie Taylor of Progressive Change Campaign committee said, “Today’s cave by Senate Democrats – led by weak-kneed, right of centre Democrats – is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything.”

The three day shutdown almost didn’t happen when Mr.Schumer met President Donald Trump on Friday to reach a deal. Mr.Schumer later expressed his disappointment that a deal couldn’t be reached, complaining that negotiating with Trump was like negotiating with Jell-o. Every time the Democrats thought they had reached an agreement with the president, whether it was to accept a bipartisan deal on immigration or establishing terms for reopening the government, Trump would come up with new conditions.


Even in the congressional negotiations that ultimately led to the reopening of the government, the president was a non-factor. “A great deal-making president sat on the sidelines,” Mr.Schumer said as he announced Democrats would agree to Mr.McConnell’s deal. Even though the president didn’t play an important part in reopening the government he has reasons to rejoice. The administration managed the government shutdown efficiently. Common people on the streets hardly felt any effects of the shutdown. Disruptions were kept to a minimum, and government services largely continued undisrupted. Even museums and national parks mostly stayed open, contrary to the 2013 government shutdown. Trump would also be reasonably happy that the Senate Democrat leadership has showed willingness to fund his Mexican border wall in exchange for protecting “the dreamers”. Earlier funding the wall was a non-starter for democrats. It seems the democrats have realised that they have to make some concessions to negotiate an immigration deal. No political party can deliver all the promises they make to their voters, especially when the party in question is in opposition.

Stocks were flat Monday morning but closed at record highs after the senate voted to end the government shutdown with DOW at 26,214.60 and NASDAQ at 7,408.03. Although the spending bill restores funding only till February 8, if the government shuts down again, investors would not expect another sell-off. Republicans have said they willing to negotiate with an open mind on immigration but they will not do it with a gun pointed at their head, so to speak. This was the 18th government shutdown since 1976- not necessarily routing, but not uncharted territory either. This shutdown and most of the others did not have a major impact on the common public or the government employees. The armed forces continued the operations, mails were being delivered, social security checks continued, medicare programmes were not disrupted. Even Amtrak which depends on federal subsidies managed to stay open. Most government shutdowns including this one were extremely brief and although it sounds scary, the reality is it has been a non-event for the common public.

Sagar Kar

Image: [GovLoop]