As the partial US government shutdown entered a third day, senators left Washington for the Christmas holiday with no sign of urgency to resolve the fight over President Donald Trump’s demand for Mexico border wall money. A look at the situation and its likely repercussions.
How long will this shutdown last?
Unlike past shutdowns, Congress and the White House are not racing to reopen the government. Offices of congressional leaders, responsible for negotiating with the President, are shut as Trump remains at the White House. The House and Senate can next vote on 27 December, but Democrats said the two sides are far from a deal. Without consensus, many lawmakers won’t return until the new Congress session starts on 3 January 2019, when Democrats take control of the House. “It’s very possible that the shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress," said White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.
What has brought about the shutdown?
This week’s blow-up over spending legislation was sudden. On Wednesday, the Senate easily passed a temporary spending measure without any money for the border wall with Mexico after getting signals from the White House that Trump wouldn’t press the issue and trigger a shutdown. But after the outcry from conservatives, including talk show host Rush Limbaugh and commentator Ann Coulter, the House, at Trump’s insistence, amended it a day later to include $5 billion for the wall. That was unacceptable to Democrats who have enough votes in the Senate to block the legislation.
Which are the affected departments?
The partial shutdown affects nine out of 15 departments representing about a quarter of the $1.24 trillion in US government discretionary spending for fiscal 2019.
How is the issue expected to pan out?
The outcome of the shutdown will set the stage for the next two years of divided government in Washington, with Republicans controlling the White House and Senate and Democrats running the House. Republicans are in majority in the chamber, but they need Democratic votes to get to the 60-vote threshold to pass funding measures. Trump’s decision to force a shutdown is part of an all-in bet that immigration is the singular issue that will keep his political base intact and carry him to re-election.
What do voters want?
A Quinnipiac poll in mid-December found that 54% of US voters oppose building a wall, but 86% of Republicans favour it. A recent Marist poll found that Republican voters backed a shutdown if there was no wall funding by a 36-point margin, contrary to the large majority of Americans, who wanted Trump to compromise by a 21-point margin. Kelly Greenhill, a political science professor at Tufts University, said the wall “is a panacea that feels right to a certain segment of US society, even if it is very unlikely to deliver" what Trump promised.