A year to the day after Trump took office, government goes into shutdown as nationwide protests take aim at his divisive presidency
This article titled “US government shutdown: anniversary of Trump inauguration marred by chaos” was written by Julian Borger , Ben Jacobs, Sabrina Siddiqui and Lauren Gambino in Washington, for theguardian.com on Saturday 20th January 2018 23.34 UTC
Donald Trump’s first anniversary in office was marked by the turbulence and division that have defined his presidency, with a government shutdown and protests in cities across the country.
Up to 800,000 federal workers were told to stay home after the White House and Congress failed to strike a compromise on a government spending bill. Workers deemed essential and armed forces personnel were asked to stay at work. If the shutdown continues, they will probably go unpaid.
Armed services personnel abroad got their first taste of the cuts when they were told they would not be able to watch Sunday’s NFL playoff games, because the armed forces broadcasting network had shut down.
With crisis talks under way, Trump cancelled a trip to his Florida retreat at Mar-a-Lago, where he had hoped to celebrate his year in office at a gala dinner.
Instead, as protesters marked their own anniversary of major anti-Trump demonstrations outside the White House and in other major cities, the president stayed in Washington, firing off angry tweets.
What is a government shutdown?
When the US Congress fails to pass appropriate funding for government operations and agencies, a shutdown is triggered. Most government services are frozen, barring those that are deemed “essential”, such as the work of the Department of Homeland Security and FBI. During a shutdown, nearly 40% of the government workforce is placed on unpaid furlough and told not to work. Many, but not all, are non-defense federal employees. Active duty military personnel are not furloughed.
Why is the government poised to shut down?
Members of Congress are at an impasse over what should be included in a spending bill to keep the government open. Democrats have insisted any compromise must also include protections for the nearly 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the US as children.
The Dreamers, who were granted temporary legal status under Barack Obama, were newly exposed to the threat of deportation when Donald Trump moved to rescind their protections in September.
Trump and Republicans have argued immigration is a separate issue and can be dealt with at a later time.
How common is a shutdown?
There have been 12 government shutdowns in the US since 1981, although ranging in duration. The longest occurred under Bill Clinton, lasting a total of 21 days from December 1995 to January 1996, when the then House speaker, Newt Gingrich, demanded sharp cuts to government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and welfare.
The most recent shutdown transpired under Obama in 2013, pitting the president against the Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans refused to support a spending bill that included funding for Obama’s healthcare law, resulting in a 16-day shutdown that at its peak affected 850,000 federal employees.
What would be the cost of a shutdown?
A government shutdown would cost the US roughly $6.5bn a week, according to a report by S&P Global analysts. “A disruption in government spending means no government paychecks to spend; lost business and revenue to private contractors; lost sales at retail shops, particularly those that circle now-closed national parks; and less tax revenue for Uncle Sam,” the report stated. “That means less economic activity and fewer jobs.”
Nearly 1 million people would not receive regular paychecks in the event of a shutdown. In previous shutdowns, furloughed employees have been paid retrospectively – but those payments have often been delayed.
Trump sought to blame Democrats for the shutdown, claiming they were putting immigrants before other Americans.
Democrats blamed Trump, for walking away from a compromise over the future of young undocumented migrants known as Dreamers. They pointed out that the shutdown, the first since October 2013, was the first when one party controlled all three branches of government.
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
At a press conference, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, alluded to a tweet Trump wrote in May 2017, saying a shutdown would be good for the country.
“Happy anniversary Mr President, your wish came true,” Pelosi said. “You won the shutdown. The shutdown is all yours.”
Addressing the House, the Republican speaker, Paul Ryan, said: “Senate Democrats refuse to fund the government unless we agree to their demands on something entirely unrelated. They want a deal on immigration. And then they’ll think about reopening the government.”
Saturday’s talks were focused on passing a stopgap spending measure. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said Trump was being updated and had been in touch with Republican leaders.
At a White House briefing, the director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, signalled a concession when he said Trump would sign a resolution to keep the government funded for three weeks. The spending bill rejected by the Senate late Friday night would have kept the government open for four.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), Obama-era legislation that allowed approximately 700,000 Dreamers to stay in the country, is set to expire on 5 March after being rescinded by Trump. Democrats have refused to support any spending bill that does not restore such protection.
The Republican senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, said in a statement he believed a continuing resolution “through 8 February” and a commitment to “seek resolution on immigration, disaster relief, military and government funding, Chip [children’s health insurance], and other healthcare related issues” would pass the upper chamber.
But Short said Senate Democrats were “basically conducting a two-year-old temper tantrum in front of the American people” and said: “We will not negotiate the status of 690,000 unlawful immigrants while hundreds of millions of tax-paying Americans, including hundreds of thousands of our troops in uniform and border agents protecting our country, are held hostage by Senate Democrats.”
The White House budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, accused the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, of lying about his Friday meeting with Trump.
Trump and Schumer shared a cheeseburger lunch at the White House. The president reportedly agreed to more time for a deal on Dreamers in return for more defence spending, funding for a border wall and tougher enforcement of immigration law.
But the deal frayed and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff and an immigration hardliner, called Schumer to kill the talks.
On Saturday, Schumer said dealing with President Trump was “like negotiating with Jello”, later adding that this was “because he can’t stick to the terms”.
Schumer’s No 2 in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said a bipartisan group of senators had been on the verge of an agreement late on Friday, only for Ryan to inform his counterparts in the Senate that House Republicans would not agree to it.
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, insisted in an email the speaker and McConnell had been “in communication and full agreement throughout”.
The Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey said Republicans had ceded their negotiating position to a bloc of hardline House conservatives.
“I was not elected to genuflect to the Freedom Caucus,” Casey said, before walking to the floor to vote down the funding measure that passed the House on Thursday.
By Saturday morning, it appeared the White House had calculated that the Democrats had made themselves vulnerable to blame.
In a CNN poll, 31% blamed Democrats for the shutdown, 26% blamed Republicans and 21% held Trump responsible. Although there is broad support for protecting Dreamers, a majority thought it was more important to avoid a shutdown.
On Capitol Hill, there was some optimism. Emerging from a bipartisan meeting of around 20 senators, Graham said progress had made with McConnell agreeing to only a three-week funding bill and promising the Senate would address key issues.
However, citing his colleague Lamar Alexander, Graham said “shutting down the government as a negotiating tool is what chemical warfare is to war”.
Others who did not attended that meeting felt cautiously hopeful. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said there was “certainly a real possibility [of a deal] if there’s good faith on both sides”.
In his view, Friday night saw “the first real serious negotiations about this [spending bill] which only happened because of the vote result”.
Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, said Democrats “may have wanted to bring out their Trump posters for a couple of days, show their extreme elements of the party that they were with them”.
Trump’s presidential campaign released a new ad – which claimed Democrats were “complicit in all murders by illegal immigrants”.
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