kalerkantho


US shutdown begins as Senate fails to agree on new budget

BBC    

20 January, 2018 12:42 PM



US shutdown begins as Senate fails to agree on new budget

A- A A+

The US government has begun a federal shutdown after the Senate failed to agree on a new budget.

Despite last minute bipartisan meetings, the bill to fund the government until 16 February did not receive the required 60 votes.

It is the first shutdown ever to happen while the same party, the Republicans, controls Congress and the White House.

In response, the White House accused Democrats of holding "lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands".

"They put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country's ability to serve all Americans", spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

But Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said President Donald Trump had turned down two bipartisan compromise deals and "did not press his party in Congress".

It was unclear which way the vote would go as the midnight deadline approached, with Republicans and Democrats split on key issues.

The House of Representatives voted 230-197 on Thursday night to extend funding until next month, but the measure failed to pass the Senate by a margin of 50-49.

Five Republicans voted against the bill while five Democrats broke ranks to support it.

The last US shutdown happened in 2013 and lasted for 16 days, during which many federal employees took a forced leave of absence.

Many government offices will close as federal law requires agencies to shut down if Congress has not allocated money to fund them.

National parks and monuments are also likely to face closure.

But essential services will still run. These include national security, postal services, air traffic control, inpatient medical services, emergency outpatient medicine, disaster assistance, prisons, taxation and electricity generation.

In the hours before the vote, President Trump sounded pessimistic, tweeting that it was "not looking good for our great Military or Safety & Security on the very dangerous Southern Border".

What's the problem?

The main bone of contention has been Democrats' demands for more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children to be protected from deportation.

These "Dreamers", as they are known, were granted temporary legal status under a programme established by former President Barack Obama.

In September, Mr Trump announced he was ending the programme and allowing Congress until March to come up with a replacement.

The Republican president and congressional conservatives have been using the issue as a bargaining chip in an attempt to wring concessions from Democrats.

Mr Trump wants funding for tough new border controls, including his proposed US-Mexico wall.

Republicans have added to the bill a sweetener in the form of a six-year extension to a health insurance programme for children in lower-income families.

They are essentially daring Democrats to vote against a measure that has been a longstanding liberal priority.

But Democrats say they want this programme extended permanently.

The legislative negotiations went up in flames last week after Mr Trump allegedly complained the US was letting in immigrants from certain "shithole countries".

What could be the political fallout?

The blame game is already in full swing with neither party wishing to be held accountable for closing the government as midterm elections loom in November.

This would be the first shutdown while one party is in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, which could be politically embarrassing for Republicans.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll suggests that by a 20-point margin more Americans blame President Trump and his party for the imbroglio, rather than Democrats.

But a shutdown would also be problematic for 10 Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year in states won by Mr Trump.

They would face voters this autumn amid a hail of attack ads claiming they closed the US government to help illegal immigrants.

In a late-night speech on the Senate floor, top Republican Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of trying to "hold the entire country hostage".

Mindful of the risks, Democrats have shifted their messaging in recent days to say their opposition is about much more than just immigration.

Democrats hope to make it instead about the president and Republicans' ability to govern.

Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen tweeted of Mr Trump: "This man doesn't comprehend work ethic, the office of President, or duty to the country. He understands golf, ice cream, and Big Macs!"

What happens in a shutdown?

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said that over 50% of his department would not go to work, and some maintenance, training and intelligence operations would come to a halt.

"We do a lot of intelligence operations around the world and they cost money, these obviously would stop," Mr Mattis said when asked about the impending shutdown, "it's got a huge morale impact."

The Trump administration is reportedly making contingency plans to keep the parks running if no deal is reached.

Visa and passport processing could also be delayed.

 


Comments

TALK OF THE TOWN