Government shutdowns are not all that uncommon, but they are often controversial and complex. It’s important to know the facts about the current shutdown, which has become the third-longest shutdown in United States history.
How did the shutdown start?
Late in 2018, both the House and Senate began to scramble to fund parts of the federal government. Things got partisan when it came to funding border security. Both chambers were able to pass spending bills, but the President refused to sign legislation without at least $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border.
How historic is this shutdown?
In short, shutdowns, especially partial shutdowns, are not unique. The longest shutdown occurred from December 1995 to January 1996, around the same timeline as this one, under President Bill Clinton. That shutdown lasted 21 days. The government also shut down under President Obama in 2013 when Congress and the President couldn’t agree.
What departments and agencies does the shutdown affect?
This shutdown does not include all of the federal government. It affects approximately 25 percent of federal government services. Notably, the National Parks Service is affected, and the IRS is not processing taxes or issuing refunds. Food stamps may be next on the list of affected government services. As well, approximately 420,000 federal employees, like TSA agents, are not currently being paid. That said, there are initiatives in Congress to ensure that these federal employees will receive back pay after the shutdown is over.
What is Congress doing about it?
Congressional Democrats have said that they do not want to spend more than $1.6 billion on border security. Some have advocated for reopening the government before continuing the border debate. This week in Congress, there are four different appropriations bills. Senate Democrats have threatened to delay all other business until these bills are also addressed in their chamber. Some congressional Republicans are backing President Trump while others are planning to vote for bills to reopen portions of the government.