#TrumpShutdown? Well, not really.
As the U.S. nears three weeks of partial shutdown, fingers are increasingly being pointed at the President. But it isn’t (all) his fault.
The current partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government is set to be a historic one, nearing its third week with a high chance of becoming the longest shutdown in history. It looks no closer to ending than it did three weeks ago — yesterday, the President walked out of a negotiation meeting with top Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Minority Leader and House Speaker respectively. It is unsurprising that the Democratic Party would direct the blame towards the Republican-controlled White House and its divisive administration — but in doing so, Democrats are not reckoning with the real problem nor recognising the real source of the issue. The budget deal that would end the shutdown must pass through the House of Representatives (which it has) and then the Senate (which it hasn’t) — and the President has no control over either of these two houses. And yet, he is still taking most of the flack for the “Trump Shutdown”.
Most of the blame should not lie with Trump. Nor should it lie with Schumer, Pelosi or the Democrats. This shutdown has arisen purely from the issue of bitter partisan politics and the Senate GOP’s subsequent abdication of all constitutional duty.
A (Senate) divided against itself
The U.S. political system is grounded entirely in the now-infamous “checks and balances” system of the three divisions of government. The Legislative Branch (the House and Senate) is elected and enacts laws and oversees the Executive Branch’s (the President — also elected) actions and appointments to positions in government, especially to the Judicial Branch (the courts), which then can strike down laws and check the actions of the Executive and Legislative Branch, of which the latter can then also ensure the Judicial Branch is behaving properly. Sound confusing? Well, it is. Here’s a handy diagram which may or may not make it simpler.
As shown, the Legislative Branch — the aforementioned House of Representatives and Senate — control the budget, and are meant to act as an independent force to control unruly presidents. It’s almost too reasonable to ask “why, then, have Senate Republicans decided to act as the President’s personal slaves and do everything he tells them to, especially when the Senate is meant to be independent?” Well, dear reader, the answer is not entirely clear. We have, however, gathered three interesting theories just for you.
Theory 1: maybe the Senate GOP is just genuinely voting along with their uncompromising, fiscally-insane morals (the opinion of investors and economists, not me). This dubious (albeit unsurprising if true) idea theorises that Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, may just be so fiercely set on having his own little fence on the US-Mexico border that he has whipped all other Republican senators into voting with him (I’m giving this theory an “unlikely” rating).
Theory 2: Mitch McConnell may just be voting like he believes his predecessors would, therefore living up to the expectations of his office as a senior Republican figure — expectations that are incredibly hard to achieve, especially when considering just how little you have to care about the everyday American to fully embrace that role as well as he does (seems even more unlikely to me).
Theory 3: Or perhaps, there could be a very slight, tiny, little minuscule possibility that McConnell is nothing more than a partisan hack who would prioritize Mr Trump’s fragile ego over the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers without even batting an eyelid (actually — on reconsideration — this theory is very very likely).
As it stands
Democrats have a spending bill that would re-open the government and that sailed through the Democrat-controlled House with a small amount of bipartisan support (5 GOP representatives, to be exact). It is by no means a popular bill — on the whole, Republicans hate it as it allocates exactly $0 for the President’s wall. This does not mean that Democrats deserve blame — I believe absolutely that if the positions were switched, Republicans would do the same. This bill, despite its unpopularity, does complete the task everyone is desperate to finish: reopening the federal government and allowing the >800,000 federal workers that spent Christmas unpaid to receive their first paychecks again. It also sets up the possibility of future discussions over the wall — a compromise that Republicans should leap at, especially since as they are under no obligation to do everything the president says.
Trump is not without fault, of course: it’s his steadfast delusion that got us here in the first place. But the failure of Congress to approve spending bills that would reopen the government is all on his shoulders — the Senate GOP could easily decide to ignore him on this issue with absolutely no legal or political ramifications, especially since as the next congressional electoral cycle is almost 2 years away — and even further away for Class 1 or Class 3 senators (six and four years respectively). It is down almost entirely to Mitch McConnell to take up his constitutional duty of ordering Senate Republicans to use the power they have to reign back the unruly, chaotic Trump administration.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are relying on it.
Quick endnote: Having come to the end of this thing, I’ve had a chance to re-read my earlier three theories for the shutdown and I’ve realised I made a grave error. I apologise — I misstated the likelihood that McConnell doesn’t care about anything but lining his own wallets and those of his rich pals as “very very likely” when in reality it’s not “likely” at all. It’s certain.