US government reopens, for now: What is a government shutdown, why it occurs and what is its impact?

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New Delhi | Published: January 23, 2018 12:22:19 PM

The US government had shut down at midnight on Friday, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration. the shutdown came despite the Republicans enjoying majorities in the House as well as the Senate.

Donald Trump, Democratic Party, republican party, government shutdown in the united states,The last shutdown in 2013 under President Barack Obama lasted for 16 days and was overwhelmingly unpopular among voters with 81 per cent disapproving of legislators allowing federal funding to lapse.

The US House of Representatives on Monday passed a crucial stopgap spending bill that would end the government shutdown. The bill was then sent to President Donald Trump’s desk who signed it to allow the government to be reopened from Tuesday morning. The bill provides for funds required by the federal agencies to function for three weeks. In the meantime, the negotiations will continue on the issue of immigration and the larger budget bill. The US government had shut down at midnight on Friday, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration and despite the Republicans enjoying a majority in the House as well as the Senate.

What is a government shutdown?

A government shutdown occurs when there is a gap in budget funding. It happens when either one or both the chambers of US Congress fail to get over their disagreements over budget allocations until the budget cycle ends. It can also occur if the President fails to sign the legislation to fund government operations and agencies. As per the separation of powers that finds its genesis in the US Constitution, the Congress has the sole power of the purse and is responsible for appropriating government funds.

The process requires that appropriations bills must start in the House of Representatives and then be approved by the Senate. After the passage of a final version by both houses, these bills then head to the President. If the President signs the bills, they become law. If instead, the President vetoes them, they go back to Congress, where the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote. Such a shutdown is not possible in most democracies, where the powers of the executive and the legislature are not separated. In most cases, a scenario where the Budget fails to pass muster in parliament would typically lead to the fall of the government.

Impact of a government shutdown

The shutdown essentially means that thousands of federal employees will be furloughed without pay until the impasse is resolved. These employees will not report to work in the intervening period and will not be paid for their services until funding is restored. This shutdown, however, will not include those in so-called essential services like law enforcement, the military, air traffic control and social security – ones that protect “life or human property”. Among the worst-hit will be the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, according to The New York Times.

Why did the current shutdown occur?

The dispute arose over protections for undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children. According to US media reports, Democrats wanted to force through protections from deportation for 700,000 “dreamers” who had previously been covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme. This was contrary to Trump’s presidential campaign promise of strict measures on immigration. Last week, Trump rejected a bipartisan proposal on the issue during a meeting, asserting that any deal for ‘dreamers’ would be part of a bigger legislative package that also boosted funding for a wall and tighter security measures along the US border with Mexico.

Has US government shut down earlier?

Since 1976, when the current budget and appropriations process was enacted, there have been 19 gaps in budget funding, eight of which led to federal employees being sent off. Prior to 1990, funding gaps did not always lead to government shutdowns, but since 1990 the practice has been to shut down the government for all funding gaps. Shutdowns have also occurred at the state/territorial and local levels of government. The last shutdown, which took place in 2013 under President Barack Obama, lasted for 16 days. It was overwhelmingly unpopular among voters with 81 percent disapproving of legislators allowing federal funding to lapse, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. According to rating agency Standard & Poor’s, the shutdown had “to date (Oct 16) taken $24 billion out of the economy,” and “shaved at least 0.6 percent off annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth”, ABC News reported.

What happens now?

The stop-gap funding provides for funds that federal agencies require to function for three weeks. In the meantime, negotiations will continue on the issue of immigration rules and the budget. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to take up such an immigration bill – a pledge that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said was enough for Democrats to agree to help end the government shutdown. If senators fail to reach a deal on immigration by February 8 as part of a broader agreement on federal spending, the Senate will then take up a separate immigration measure, Schumer said. “Once the government is funded, my administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country,” Trump said in a statement.

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