2018–19 United States federal government shutdown

The United States federal government shutdown of 2018–2019 occurred from midnight EST on December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019 (35 days). It was the longest U.S. government shutdown in history,[4][5][6] and the second[a] federal government shutdown involving furloughs during the presidency of Donald Trump. It occurred when the 115th United States Congress and Republican President Donald Trump could not agree on an appropriations bill to fund the operations of the federal government for the 2019 fiscal year, or a temporary continuing resolution that would extend the deadline for passing a bill. The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal departments or agencies from conducting non-essential operations without appropriations legislation in place. As a result, nine executive departments with around 800,000 employees had to shut down partially or in full, affecting about one-fourth of government activities and causing employees to be furloughed or required to work without being paid.[7] The Congressional Budget Office estimated the shutdown cost the American economy at least $11 billion, excluding indirect costs that were difficult to quantify.[8]

The shutdown stemmed from an impasse over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall.[9][10][11] In December 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate unanimously passed an appropriations bill without wall funding, and the bill appeared likely to be approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Trump. After Trump faced heavy criticism from some right-wing media outlets and pundits for appearing to back down on his campaign promise to "build the wall", he announced that he would not sign any appropriations bill that did not fund its construction. As a result, the House passed a stopgap bill with funding for the wall, but it was blocked in the Senate by the threat of a Democratic filibuster.[12]

In January 2019, representatives elected in the November 2018 election took office, giving the Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives. The House immediately voted to approve the appropriations bill that had previously passed the Senate unanimously (which included no funding for the wall). For several weeks, Trump continued to maintain that he would veto any bill that did not fund an entire border wall, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the Senate from considering any appropriations legislation that Trump would not support, including the bill that had previously passed.[13][14] Democrats and some Republicans opposed the shutdown and passed multiple bills to reopen the government, arguing that the government shutdown amounted to "hostage-taking" civil servants and that negotiations could only begin once the government was reopened.[15][16][17][18]

On January 25, 2019, Trump agreed to endorse a stopgap bill to reopen the government for three weeks up until February 15 to allow for negotiations to take place to approve an appropriations bill that both parties could agree on.[19] However, Trump reiterated his demand for the border wall funding and said that he would shut down the government again or declare a national emergency and use military funding to build the wall if Congress did not appropriate the funds by February 15.[19][20]

Trump's approval rating decreased significantly during the shutdown.[21][22] A majority of Americans opposed exploitation of the shutdown as a negotiating strategy and held Trump responsible for the shutdown: A CBS News poll found that 71% of Americans considered the border wall "not worth the shutdown"[23] and a poll by The Washington Post and ABC News found that 53% of Americans blamed Trump and Republicans for the shutdown, compared to 34% who blamed Democrats and 10% who blamed both parties.[24]

On February 15, 2019, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in order to bypass the United States Congress, after being unsatisfied with a bipartisan border bill that had passed the House of Representatives and the Senate a day before.[25]

Background

During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to build a wall along the Mexico–United States border for which Mexico would pay.[26] The president of Mexico rejected the idea of providing any funding for a U.S. border wall. In 2018, Trump requested $18 billion in federal funding for some 700 miles (1,100 km) of barrier on the border, mostly to replace 654 miles (1,053 km) of aging fence built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006. On December 25, 2018, Trump reversed course, suggesting that he might accept 500 to 550 miles (800 to 890 km) of either mostly refurbished barrier (rather than new barriers in locations that did not previously have them) by November 2020.[27] Trump's proposals and public statements on the wall have shifted widely over time, with varied proposals as to the design, material, length, height, and width of a wall.[28]

In September 2018, Congress passed two "minibus" appropriations bills for the 2019 United States federal budget, which began on October 1, 2018. These bills combined five of the 12 regular appropriations bills covering 77% of federal discretionary funding, and included a continuing resolution until December 7 for the remaining agencies.[29] On December 6, Congress passed a second continuing resolution to December 21, to give more time for negotiations on Trump's proposed border wall, which had been delayed due to the funeral of George H. W. Bush.[30]

A Senate Homeland Security appropriations bill, negotiated by both parties and reported by the committee to the Senate, provided for $1.6 billion for border security, including funds for "approximately 65 miles of pedestrian fencing along the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector".[31] The bill did not receive a vote on the Senate floor, although House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer indicated that such a proposal could be acceptable to House Democrats.[31] Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the Democratic Party would not support $5.7 billion for the border wall. At a press conference before the government shutdown, he noted "the $1.6 billion for border security negotiated by Democrats and Republicans is our position. We believe that is the right way to go."[32]

Beginning of shutdown

Donald Trump meets with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on December 11, 2018, stating "I will be the one to shut it down."
Muir Beach Overlook in San Francisco, closed for the shutdown in December 2018

On December 11, Trump held a televised meeting with Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office and asked them to support an appropriation of $5.7 billion for funding of a border wall. They refused, resulting in an argument between Trump and both Congressional leaders. During the contentious discussion, Trump said, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security ... I will be the one to shut [the government] down. I'm not going to blame you for it ... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down." Schumer replied, "We shouldn't shut down the government over a dispute."[33] Ten days later, Trump blamed Democrats for the impending shutdown.[34]

Three days later, Politico reported that Trump was willing to sign a bill with no funding for a border wall that delayed a government shutdown into 2019 and the new Congress.[35] On December 18, following a meeting with Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the government would not shut down on December 22 and that Trump was "flexible" over funding for a border wall. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby commented that the most likely resolution was a bill that funded the government until early February. Schumer added that his caucus would "very seriously" consider such a bill and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said "I don't know anybody on the Hill that wants a shutdown, and I think all the president's advisers are telling him this would not be good."[36]

On December 19, the Senate passed a second continuing resolution (H.R. 695) that would fund the government until February 8, 2019. Pelosi announced that House Democrats would support the measure, meaning it would overcome opposition from conservative Republicans and pass the House.[37] On December 20, following increased criticism from conservative media, pundits, and political figures,[38][39] Trump reversed his position and declared that he would not sign any funding bill that did not include border wall funding. The same day, the House passed a continuing resolution that included $5 billion for the wall and $8 billion in disaster aid.[12] This bill failed in the Senate.[40] Trump's changing position caused consternation among Senate Republicans.[38][41]

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