The Clock Struck Twelve: Waking Up to a Government Shutdown
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Congress failed to agree on the spending bill, and now the lights are out. Senators on Friday couldn’t avert the shutdown amid worries about “Dreamers”—young, undocumented noncitizens who arrived as children and have grown up in this country.
Republicans needed 60 Senate votes for the spending bill but got just 50.
Five Democrats in Trump-voting states sided with the Republicans in support of the bill; four Republicans decided to vote against it.
So the shutdown has begun. It’s expected to cost the country $6.5 billion a week.
Work Interrupted at Parks, CDC, IRS…
“Non-essential” federal employees aren’t allowed to work without appropriated funding. A furlough will affect hundreds of thousands of government workers, from national park store clerks to Social Security administrators. Independent contractors may lose expected income entirely. As the Department of Health & Human Services loses half its staff, the CDC’s work will suffer during a flu crisis.
There will be other consequences. We’ll watch them unfold in the days ahead. A prolonged shutdown could impede IRS implementation of its new law, pushing tax season into chaos.
The Art of No Deal
On Thursday, the House had voted for the spending bill after speaker Paul Ryan made concessions to conservative Republicans from the Freedom Caucus. Concessions included more military spending and possible backing for an anti-immigration bill.
Then President Trump met with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer at the White House. In the Senate, the standoff seemed insurmountable. Democrats held fast to their insistence on a bill that both appropriates funds and saves Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), set to expire this March. Republicans refused, but pressed the Democrats by enclosing in their bill a 6-year authorization for childrens’ health insurance (CHIP).
When Trump and Schumer chatted over cheeseburgers, Schumer agreed to increased military spending and full funding for a border wall, asking in turn for a measure to keep the government running just four or five more days, to buy negotiating time.
But White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly nixed any inferred compromise.
“I thought we had a deal,” lamented Schumer.
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