Federal government open for now, allowing room to breathe

Max Hess and Max Hess

The longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history has entered an interlude, but Americans are still recovering from its effects.

Government shutdowns have high potential to uproot or financially hurt federal employees and those using government welfare programs like food stamps and farm subsidies. Kendra Morrow, a Bowling Green mother of three, is one of the non-government workers who has been affected by this latest shutdown.

“I have been on and off food stamps, medical and stuff like that since I’ve had kids. When I need it, it’s there. The government gave us a small amount meant for February ahead of time and was basically like ‘this is in case it continues on, and you’re not going to get any more as long as this shutdown goes on.’ I have some family members who are disabled and are having the same kinds of difficulties,” she said.

The 35-day shutdown was the result of President Trump and Congress being unable to agree on security spending for the border between the U.S. and Mexico. A key moment that sparked the shutdown was an argument between congressional Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and President Trump at a Dec. 11 Oval Office meeting.

President Trump’s controversial border wall was the focal point of this gridlock, as Pelosi and Schumer considered the wall to be “expensive and ineffective” in their Jan. 8 address to the president. BGSU political science professor Nicole Kalaf-Hughes thinks the wall isn’t especially pragmatic, with most members of Congress not being in favor of it.

“A large percentage of our border is already fenced — the part that is not fenced is because it is private property, reservation or the terrain makes it impractical (rivers, etc.). A wall would require millions of dollars in legal fees as people fight eminent domain grabs, etc., which would add to the cost literally and figuratively,” she said.

The shutdown temporarily ended in an agreement, which Trump announced Jan. 25, stating that pay is re-supplied to government workers “for three weeks, until Feb. 15.” He made it clear that he’s still intent on building the border wall, even if he has to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress. According to Kalaf-Hughes, government shutdowns have historically angered the public and been unpopular.

We are back exactly where we would have been in December if President Trump had signed the legislation Congress passed then. This shutdown was a bit different than some earlier shutdowns as the disagreement was not due to Congress, but rather the President did not like the bill he was sent from the legislative branch,” she said.

In the future, there may be another shutdown, but Kalaf-Hughes said Congress is trying to avoid it because shutdowns are unpopular with the public.

“… members of Congress are very much single-minded seekers of re-election. They are not going to risk a government shutdown and endanger their re-election prospects if they can at all avoid it,” she said.