US President Donald’ Trump’s attempts to celebrate his administration’s achievements on the first anniversary of his inauguration have been marred by a government shutdown after the Congress and White House failed to pass appropriate legislation to fund federal operations and agencies.
The shutdown is nothing new in US politics. This is the eighth time a similar situation has occurred since 1980 when millions of federal employees will be forced to work without regular pay.
The last shutdown happened in 2013 when an impasse over a much-needed funding bill connected to former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law failed to pass.
The current shutdown is directly linked to Trump’s isolationist “America First” policy and his hardline stance on immigration.
In September, Trump issued an executive order that ended an Obama program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gave legal protections to “Dreamer” immigrants. The “Dreamers” are young people brought to the United States illegally as children and who hail mainly from Mexico and Central America, but who grew up in the US.
Trump originally claimed he would overhaul DACA and tasked the Congress to come up with a legislative fix that would prevent “Dreamers” from being deported, but later reversed his position after many of his core support base – including white nationalists – heavily criticised his “soft stance” immigration.
Democrats have vowed to continue withholding support for a temporary funding bill to keep the government open until a bipartisan solution to the DACA issue can be reached.
A group of moderate senators from both parties had hoped to end the deadlock by Sunday evening but were unable to hammer out a deal after intense efforts to find a compromise fell flat.
“We have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable to both sides,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told reporters late Sunday.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, where they have a slim 51-49 majority. But most legislation requires 60 Senate votes to pass, giving Democrats leverage in that chamber.
Trump earlier this month told a bipartisan Senate working group that he would sign whatever DACA legislation was brought to him. Later, however, he again reversed course and flatly rejected a bipartisan measure to fix DACA and negotiations stalled.
On January 19, the bill failed to pass the Senate, with the majority of Democrats voting against. Five Republicans crossed party lines to join their Democratic rivals to help defeat the bill.
A stop-gap measure that would fund the government for four weeks passed the House of Representatives, while Republican Senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, proposed his own three-week short-term solution.
McConnell has already said that he is willing to debate new immigration legislation if a new agreement is not found by the beginning of next month.
“Let’s stop victimising the American people and get back to work on their behalf,” said McConnell to the media on Sunday night.
The Senate expects to return to talks on Monday with the hope of finding a temporary way to restore federal funding until early February.
The shutdown began late Friday and has yet to adversely affect most government employees, but with the start of the new work week, state workers will be told to stay home and basic services at federal agencies will no longer function normally.
The Defense Department published a memo saying civilian employees were on temporary leave, except those needed to support active-duty troops.
The Pentagon said all 1.3 million active military personnel would remain on duty, but that all civilian personnel assigned to non-essential operations would be furloughed.