The US government shutdown lasted from December 22, 2018 up until January 25, 2019. It was one of the longest government shutdowns in US history. The shutdown occurred due to President Donald Trump and his demand for $5.7 billion of federal funds for the US-Mexico border wall. It is the second government shutdown that has occurred under the presidency of Donald Trump, which leads one to question the adequacy of his leadership, and his use of presidential power.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to build a wall across the US-Mexico border and ‘make Mexico pay for it’. Mexico naturally rejected the bizarre idea, and this left Trump to find funding for the wall elsewhere. Trump’s request for $5.7 billion of taxpayer money to build the border wall was thoroughly rejected by the Democratic Party, so Trump declared in the televised Oval Office meeting that he is “proud to shut down the government for border security” and the Democrats would be the one to “blame” for the impending shutdown. Throughout the three weeks of government shutdown, Trump continuously threatened to declare national emergency and unilaterally mandate the wall construction without government authorization. Democrats and few Republicans joined forces to oppose the shutdown by passing several bills to reopen the government. On January 25, 2019, Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow for negotiations and appropriate bill which both parties could agree on. However, Trump declared if Congress did not appropriate funds by February 15, he would shut down the government again and declare a national emergency and use military funding to build the wall.
Trump’s action so far has affected 800,000 federal government workers. During the shutdown, federal agencies ceased all operation and workers were either sent home or forced to work without pay. Immigration courts were temporarily suspended, several national parks were closed, and scientific research were hindered. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suspended all non-essential work, stopping most inspections which caused widespread concern over unsafe food. This shutdown ended up costing the US economy $11 billion, and this blame can only be laid on Trump’s stubborn demand for the wall and the deadlock between Congress and the White House. According to The Washington Post and the ABC News poll, 58% of American disapproved of Trump’s actions suggesting that many American did not believe Trump’s demand for funds were worth the government shutdown.
The government finally reached a tentative agreement on February 12 to avoid another government shutdown. A deal of $1.4 billion for the construction of the US—Mexico border wall was made behind closed-door negotiations in the Capitol. Trump was “extremely unhappy” with this deal as it is far less than the demanded $5.7 billion. To rectify this unhappiness, Trump declared a national emergency on February 15; giving him the sole statutory power over the governance of the country and official building of the wall.
On several occasion, history has shown us how leaders have declared national emergency to use and abuse this evidently authoritarian power. Inducing a state of emergency is quite ironic as the United States is the forefront of democracy and liberty. Especially for this case, Trump himself proclaimed “I didn’t need to do this” going to show how unnecessary this declaration of national emergency really is. Taking a somewhat of a dictatorial stance to achieve his goal of building a material entity truly defies the laws of democracy and it is simply quite ludicrous.
So far, 16 states have banned together in coalition to file a law suit against Trump’s declaration as many believe his actions as the president is unconstitutional. Trumps continuous use of authority and persistent threats to the government in order to get what he wants truly conveys the inadequacy of US government and its incapability to reach an appropriate solution. As to how this will fully span out is still uncertain although it is likely Trump will continue to throw tantrums until this wall is built.