We know the government shutdown is on a lot of your minds, and for good reason. It can be confusing, and we know you probably have a lot of questions.
The key thing to keep in mind here is this is a partial shutdown. That's why some programs like social security and food stamps are still working for now, but others like parts of the parks are not. We talked to Jasmine Farrier at the University of Louisville about all of this on Wednesday. She's a professor and the chair of the political science department on campus.
Every year, the country has to fund the government through 12 appropriation bills. Seven of those bills haven't passed yet, but the five big spending ones have.
"Even though not all of the bills have passed, 3/4 of the federal government's normal funding has already been approved,” Farrier said.
The partial shutdown affects roughly 25 percent of the budget, including parks and homeland security.
"This would really affect recreation for Americans who are planning on going to the parks. Some of the parks are open, but they're not having trash removal. They're not having bathroom facilities operational. So, there may be a security problem as well as a sanitation problem. For people who visit D.C. this time of year, which is a popular destination, there will be a lot of closed museums. For other people, it will be simply having website malfunctions or delays in processing of certain papers, including background checks of certain employees,” Farrier said.
In the past 40 years, there have been more than twenty shutdowns. The longest one was in 1995 and lasted about 21 days. So, what makes this one stand apart?
"What's different about this one is that it's about one particular item. In the past, shutdowns have been about any number of legislative differences with the president. This one is really centered on homeland security funding, especially for the president's demand of a concrete wall at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Farrier said.
Farrier doesn't expect shutdown to last through February, but said there's a chance we could see it happen again.
"It depends on the type of deal. What we see are called continuing resolutions, or you'll hear them called CRs. A clean CR means a continuing resolution that does not have any other policy component to it. Once policy demands get added to some of these negotiations, it becomes a much more difficult process. Chances are it would be a shorter CR. A continuing resolution may not be for months. It could be for as few as a few weeks. If we have that, then we're going to start the process all over again. With some political differences, we only get short-term agreements because that is the best they can hope for, and then they will fight another day. The senate is really out of this loop right now. It's going to be between the president and speaker designate Pelosi because that is where the real differences are in policy,” Farrier said.
"I think the American people have to demand leadership. It's often the case that leaders are not interested in taking responsibility for bad outcomes, but this is a no win situation. It may be a bad outcome if either side or both sides have to compromise. Obviously, some people will be upset about that, but it's also a bad outcome if the government cannot function in its normal day-to-day operations. It is very important that we have a much more rational budget process, but there is nothing in American life today that is not inflicted by politics."