This week, we might finally be witnessing some movement. Now that much of the federal government has been shut down for over a month, the effects are reverberating across the nation, including here in Nevada. So which steps are finally being taken to end the shutdown, and when will it finally end? Here’s the latest on the state of the shutdown.
Why has much of the federal government been shut down for over a month?
Last month, the shutdown didn’t seem like that big of a deal, as it first appeared unlikely, then it felt like a short-term media circus once President Donald Trump rejected a bipartisan Senate appropriations bill and triggered the shutdown. But as 2019 began, the new Congress was seated, and House Democrats’ offer of the same budget deal that both sides had previously agreed upon is now considered a “non-starter” by the White House, we are now in the midst of what’s increasingly feeling like a “death spiral” of closed parks, missed paychecks, social safety net programs in jeopardy, and possibly even the acceleration of the American economy’s deceleration into recession.
And yes, this “death spiral” is increasingly being felt right here in Nevada. The federal civil servant furloughs are hampering Arizona’s efforts to finish the drought contingency plan that’s necessary to stave off federally mandated cuts to Colorado River water that will apply to Nevada if ordered. Nevada officials have also been worrying about the impending suspension of SNAP benefits due to its federal funding stream being cut off. And the incredibly ironic funding lapse of the Department of Homeland Security (no, really) has resulted in TSA workers being forced to choose whether to work without pay at airport security checkpoints or call in sick to TSA in hopes of finding work that actually pays.
Now that some federal civil servants are resorting to the “gig economy” (think Uber, Lyft, and Postmates) and/or food banks to get by, and now that another round of deadlines for the debt ceiling and funding the rest of the government are suddenly looming, this shutdown shitshow is becoming more of a real crisis. This might help in understanding why the logjam is beginning to break this week.
So what’s changed, and does this mean the government will fully reopen soon?
For one, we’re beginning to see an avalanche of polls showing most Americans blame Trump and the Republican Party most for the shutdown. Not only is this throwing Trump’s own reelection into (further) doubt (than it already was before December 22), but a recent set of PPP state polls suggest that the shutdown might also be hurting Republican Senators who will be up next year. So now, Republicans are trying to convey the image of “compromise” that both the fine print of the alleged “compromise” and Trump’s own track record make hard to believe.
However, we’re not just seeing movement on the Republican side. With several of the freshmen House Democrats clamoring to be seen as “bipartisan problem solvers” and/or concerned about their own reelection in swing districts, Democratic leaders have begun crafting a new proposal that might go as high as Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in “border security” funding while continuing to reject “The Wall” and Trump’s other anti-immigrant pet projects.
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on competing bills to end the shutdown. One is the Trump-endorsed bill that attaches $5.7 billion in border wall funding to permanent changes in immigration law that are meant to deny asylum to refugees in need, along with a temporary (as in, three years) reprieve for the DREAMers and TPS recipients Trump denied protection for, and the appropriations that are needed to reopen the government. The other is the original House Democratic plan, which actually originated as the bipartisan budget deal that the previous fully Republican-controlled Congress was set to extend. Since both are expected to fail, these are really just test votes to gauge where the Senate is moving while leaders buy themselves more time to figure out what will pass.
So what comes next?
A debate about border security is needed, but we can’t hold federal workers hostage over the President’s vanity project. Let's open the government and have that debate.
— Senator Cortez Masto (@SenCortezMasto) January 23, 2019
Over the weekend, Trump pounced on an arrest of a suspect in a series of Northern Nevada murders in hopes that would shame Democrats here and elsewhere into giving into his border wall ransom. So far that hasn’t worked, as Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D) are sticking with Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas), and Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas), and with Congressional Democratic leaders in opposing Trump’s drive to (mis)use the budget process to advance his deportation regime.
One would like to think this has to do with overwhelming evidence showing that those from immigrant communities don’t commit more crimes than Americans who were born here, but whatever the case, Democrats seem more likely to dare Trump to oppose more border security funding just because he wants American taxpayer dollars for a wall that wouldn’t really provide security for anyone (and a wall that Mexico absolutely won’t pay for). Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is refusing to provide Trump the traditional pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union Address as long as the shutdown remains in place. So at the very least, the shutdown will probably continue through the rest of the month as Congressional leaders try to figure out a way out that attracts enough Democratic votes while also guaranteeing Trump’s signature.
It’s remarkable how a manufactured crisis based on unfounded hype has triggered a real crisis that’s exacerbating the larger (and yes, very real) crisis surrounding our Constitution and our democracy, yet here we are. Let’s see how Trump decides to describe the state of our union next week, and whether his version of events has anything in common with the real state of our union that this ongoing shutdown is bringing into sharper focus.