Students and faculty react to government shutdown

Megan Stanley, Staff Writer

From Jan. 19 to 23, the U.S. government shut down over a disagreement regarding the budget for the fiscal year.

The measure that failed to pass on Friday was a temporary funding bill that would have lasted until Feb. 16. Created by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives and the Senate, it suspended several unpopular healthcare taxes with the intention that it would be easier to vote for.

The shutdown lasted over the weekend, and on Jan. 23 Congress passed a bill ending the partial shutdown, keeping the government funded until Feb. 8.

This is the fourth temporary bill imposed since October because there has been no agreement regarding a long-term budget for the fiscal year.

Dr. Thomas Baldino, a professor in the political science department at Wilkes University, explained this further.

“This is called a continuing resolution senate, a continuing resolution continues to fund the government at the same level as it had been,” he said. “By its own rules, Congress is supposed to have all of the 13 separate spending bills passed by Oct. 1 because the fiscal year runs through Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

“It didn’t meet the Oct. 1 deadline, so they passed the continuing resolution, then they passed another one, and another one, and now we’re on the fourth.”

Baldino further explained the negative impact this can have.

“The downside of continuing resolutions is that if a government agency intends to plan to do something more or different that requires additional funding, they aren’t getting it in a continuing resolution because it is basically a flat line,” he said. “The other thing about flat line spending is, depending upon what your buying from the money in the budget you’re receiving from the government, if the price of the item spikes you have to buy less of that item.”

The shutdown ended when the Democrats were given assurance of a debate and a vote regarding immigration from the Senate majority leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell.

Whilst an end to the shutdown has led to may, especially those who work in government, to  be relieved, others have instead accused the Democrats of caving. Liberal groups and some Democrats are sceptical about the promise for a debate and a vote regarding immigration. People turned to social media, and “Democrats CAVED” trended on twitter on Monday evening.

Obama’s DACA program, which allows thousands of children who were brought into the U.S. illegally to remain in the country, was cancelled and declared unconstitutional by Trump last year, has been a key point of disagreement between the Republicans and Democrats and has been named as one of the main causes for the shutdown, alongside budget disagreements.

If the promise for a debate and a vote falls to the side, the Democrats could easily force another shutdown in three weeks, according to the Anthony Zurcher, writing for the BBC.

For Wilkes students, the repeal of DACA was a strong talking point.

Sophomore political science major Letty Patino-Flores said: “Repealing DACA is taking such a step back considering our progressive views with immigration.

“With the government shutdown, it shows how inefficient a president can be. Both political parties are divided upon the subject, even the Republicans can’t agree and Trump is showing how inefficient he can be.”

During a government shutdown, many non-essential federal agencies close down, which leaves thousands of employees on temporary, unpaid leave.

Areas such as travel and tourism may shut down, meaning that passport and visa applications may be delayed. National parks and tourism sites, such as the Statue of Liberty, are also at risk of closing when the government experiences a shutdown.

National security, electricity generation and air traffic control are all agencies that are required to continue activities under a government shutdown.

The last government shutdown was in 2013 under the Obama administration, and lasted for 16 days. During this period, 800,000 federal employees were on unpaid leave, whilst another 1.3 million had to report to work without the necessarily knowing about payment. The disagreement was regarding legislation for the fiscal year 2014.

All members of the Senate and the House of Representatives continue to get paid during a government shut down because their paychecks are written into the constitution.

Kayla Reese, a junior pharmacy major, expressed concern over pay regarding the shutdown, particularly for U.S. soldiers.

“I feel that it’s insane that Congress … still continues to get paid whilst military members do not, because they are meant to be the ones keeping us safe.

“From what I’ve heard it also affects the hospital staff on base, because civilians can’t work when there’s a shutdown because they aren’t getting paid.”

However, some Wilkes students admitted that they didn’t know much about the recent shutdown.

Nancy Ramirez, a senior political science major, said: “I’m not informed enough. No one is focusing on the shutdown itself, only how the President reacted, but what exactly is the argument? You can’t find that anywhere.”

Kelci Piavis, a senior English major, echoed Ramirez and admitted: “I didn’t know about it until after the day it happened.”

Paivis did add, however, that “it just shows Donald Trump is incompetent and a hypocrite,” referring to an interview with Fox News leading up to the impending 2013 shutdown, when Trump made a comment that the blame for a shutdown should always be on the president.