Twice in the last five years, 18 times so far, the United States has witnessed the government shutdown; and this time because the Congress failed to pass a budget before a midnight Friday deadline. The government ceased to work on Friday midnight after Democrats and Republicans locked in a bitter dispute over immigration and border security, failed to agree on a last-minute deal to fund its operations. The last government shutdown took place under the presidency of Barack Obama in 2013 for his ambitious Obamacare health plan.
What led to the shutdown
According to the Guardian, when the US Congress — comprised of both Democrats and Republicans — fails to pass appropriate funding for government functioning, a shutdown takes place, in which most government services barring essential ones halt, and nearly 40% of the government workforce is placed on unpaid furlough and told not to work. This time, the funding failed to pass as Democrats and Republicans clashed over young undocumented migrants known as dreamers.
Basically, the Democrats want to reach an agreement over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an immigration policy that protects immigrants who were brought to the US as kids, while the US President and Republican members say they won’t fix DACA unless they get support for border security enhancement and even funding for the border wall, CNN reported. Barack Obama’s DACA was ordered to end by March by Donald Trump.
What happened at the stroke of midnight on Friday
In a late-night session, senators blocked a bill to extend government funding through February 16. The bill needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate but only 50 supported it, which led to the shutdown, officially from Saturday — the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a stopgap funding measure on Thursday. But Republicans then needed the support of at least 10 Democrats to pass the bill in the Senate. While five Democrats ended up voting for the measure, five Republicans voted against it, Reuters reported.
The impasse received immediate criticism from Donald Trump, who was quoted in a White House statement saying, “We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators.”
What the shutdown means
The lack of government funding means hundreds and thousands of government services will be halted. However, Vital services will still be provided by law enforcement, immigration officers, the central bank, veterans’ hospitals and the military. About 850,000 workers, out of a total 3.5 million, could be told to stay home — without pay — until Congress reaches an agreement, the American Federation of Government Employees estimates, according to AFP.
What happened the last time
On October 1, 2013, when the shutdown happened over Obamacare, around 800,000 workers were furloughed and another 1.3 million were required to report to work without known payment dates. It continued for 17 days and the government returned to work when a bill that did not defund the Obamacare was passed on October 17, 2013.
The longest government shutdown happened under the presidency of Bill Clinton between December 5, 1995, and January 6, 1996.
Impact on India
So far, no impact on India has been reported. According to IANS, no flights from India to America had been cancelled. However, if the shutdown continued for too long, it may have some impact. “The government shutdown could impact travellers planning a trip to the US in the foreseeable future,” Sharat Dhall, COO(B2C) at Yatra.com told IANS.
Both Democrats and Republicans agreed to reopen negotiations and the Senate is scheduled to vote on Monday (12 pm GMT) on whether to reopen the government.