The 2018 Government Shutdown and Who is to Blame: Being Right

Ryan Zoellner, Maroon-News Staff

Calling a Loss a Loss

On January 19, after narrowly achieving approval in the House, bill H.R. 195, The Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018, failed to meet cloture in the Senate. The failure of this vote meant that the United States government would be without funding until another bill – probably with a shorter spending time horizon called a “stopgap” – could take its place. At least in recent political memory, the act of orchestrating a government shutdown is perhaps the most callously partisan maneuver available to Washington. Contemporary shutdowns have been triggered in 1990, 1995, 1996, 2013 and now in 2018; all have been carried out in the name of political choreography. How can one be certain of this? Because there is not a member in either branch of Congress that does not have a number of affected government employees in their constituency. Everyone wants to fund the government, but sometimes the party sees a bigger prize. So, who was at fault two weeks ago? 

This has been a subject of much, not exactly debate, more like “militant Twitter use.” The phrases #SchumerShutdown and #TrumpShutdown were put into direct contest with one another without any examination from their promoters. And I really do mean without any.  

The phrase #TrumpShutdown is, in a theoretical sense, non-verifiable and, in a practical sense, overwhelmingly unlikely to be correct. The bill never made it to his desk. The claim of a Trump shutdown was never even given the opportunity to be correct because Senate Democrats preferred to create speculative hashtags rather than move forward with a bill that in large part appealed to everyone. 

This brings me to my next point, which is the overwhelming agreement over the contents of H.R. 195 and the overwhelming number of Congressional Democrats who voted against it. Aside from the absence of DACA funding, there were absolutely no contentious elements in the bill for most democrats. The official position of the House and Senate minority leaders was that funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must be included for the bill to be acceptable. There are two problems with this demand, however. The first is that the program was unilaterally repealed (in the same fashion as it was created, a subject I have written on before), meaning that Congress would be funding a program that is technically out of commission. And second, discussions of creating firm legislation to support DACA have been and continue to be happening and going well. 

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have both commented that the GOP in Congress supports the continuation of the program and Trump, despite drawing the ire of his nationalist base, supposedly agrees. DACA is well on its way to legislative legitimacy, and rightfully so. This recent shutdown was a flashy display of faux outrage over a non-event. Nevertheless, 97 percent of democrats in the house and 92 percent of those in the Senate voted against the original bill. 

Finally, the shutdown was instigated on a Friday and resolved the following Monday. The vast majority of programs the funding-gap would have affected were closed for the weekend anyway, meaning the maneuver, if it was a moral showing as Congressional Democrats continue to claim it to have been, was a weak one at that. Inconsequential, short-lived and conceived around false premises, the most recent government shutdown was a political pirouette of the highest order. It’s time to call a loss a loss, and for Congressional Democrats to take due blame for what was a strategic blunder. A #SchumerShutdown, indeed, it was.

Contact Ryan Zoellner at [email protected]