Shutdown. What comes to your mind first? Some Korean students might be familiar with the “online game shutdown system.” However, the shutdown that we will deal with in this issue is not about online games, but about the U.S. government. One day in January before the first inauguration anniversary of President Donald Trump, the U.S. government encountered the Shutdown, which is a temporary suspension of services. It was the first to happen again in four years after the Shutdown of the Obama Administration in 2013.
President Trump Face the Shutdown
At 10 p.m. on January 19th, the day before the first inauguration anniversary of President Trump, the U.S. Senate proceeded to vote on the provisional budget bill to prevent the Shutdown, but they failed to meet the quorum for a vote (which was 60 people), thus the budget bill was rejected. After its rejection, the opposing parties tried to negotiate until the last-minute talk, but couldn’t reach a settlement, and the U.S. government came to encounter the Shutdown. The next day, President Trump expressed his anger through his Twitter account, saying “This is the one year anniversary of my presidency and the Democrats wanted to give me a nice present.” President Trump, who was planning a big first anniversary party with his wealthy supporters on the night of January 20th, canceled all of his plans and continued to solve the Shutdown problem from his official residence.
What is the Shutdown?
What does the Shutdown mean exactly? If the deadline for the New Year’s budget had expired because the U.S. Congress failed to reach an agreement on the budget bill, then the budget could not properly be allocated, so main functions come to a stop temporarily. Unlike the Korean government, the U.S. adopts ”the budget legal principle.” In the case of Korea, the National Assembly just approves the budget submitted by the administration. However, in the U.S., according to the Federal Constitution, all of the government’s budget have to be agreed upon by vote as an act of law. Therefore, the same budget bill has to be passed with a majority vote in both the Senate and the House, in order for the budget to come into use. If a shutdown happens, only the main functions in government operation can remain. For example, tasks that are directly connected to people’s life protection continue their business, such as military service, public order, firefighting, correctional institutions, mailing services, flights, and electric and water services. However, other government officials besides from the above-mentioned areas are compelled to go on unpaid leave and they can’t work without pay before the budget is allocated. Also, public servants in core organizations can’t receive payment before the problems of the Shutdown are resolved.
In the United States, there have been 19 cases that a Shutdown has occurred since 1978. Among them, the Shutdown of the Obama Administration, which was the most recent incident, was over in 16 days. The main cause of the Shutdown at that time was the different views on Obama Care, a healthcare reform bill. The Obama Administration had pushed for a mandatory health insurance, so the whole nation had to join. However, the Republicans opposed government control of the market economy and argued that government will face heavy financial burden due to the healthcare reform. As a result, the budget bill had failed to reach an agreement and the U.S. government proceed to ‘Shutdown’. After that, the two parties agreed on a provisional budget bill, so the situation was settled in 16 days.
Why Did the Shutdown Happen Again?
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
The biggest cause of the Shutdown was concerned with the DACA program. The DACA program is an administrative order. Young people, who followed their parents into the U.S. illegally before the age of 16, can be postponed for deportation until the age of 31 so that they can go to school and do work. This DACA program was implemented by President Obama in August 2012. Through this program, immigrants could not get citizenship but have labor certification renewed every two years for work and they could also study at university. After its implementation, the number of immigrants whose deportations were postponed was about 800,000 people (officially counted) and among them, there were about 17,600 Korean people. (This is not a small number.)
However, after the Trump administration took office last year, lots of things have changed. The most representative pledge of Trump as a candidate of the Republicans was “anti-immigration.” Starting with slogans like “Make America Great Again,” the Trump administration gave an order that restricted visa insurance for citizens of seven Islamic countries only one week after he took office. Also, they decided to build a barrier on the southern border and to abolish the DACA program. Last September, President Trump announced that he would give a six-month grace period on DACA’s abolition, so in this period if Congress couldn’t solve the problem through supplementary legislation on immigrant issues, DACA will be completely abolished. Afterward, members of Congress tried to announce lots of representative legislation for resolving the problems, but the two parties couldn’t bridge their differences.
DACA and the Border Wall
Since the launch of the Trump administration, there are strong differences of opinions, about not only the DACA program, but building fences along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. President Trump regarded Mexico as a strong target of restriction since he was a Republican candidate. He stressed that he will stop illegal immigrants from Mexico from importing drugs into the U.S., and also said that the U.S. trade with Mexico is relatively a loss. He really wanted to build fences, so he tried to do his best to pass the budget bill on building it. However, the Democratic Party has been opposed to this bill. They claimed if the fence is built alongside the border, friction with neighboring countries will inevitably arise. Also, constructing the fence and subsequent management would need a budget of close to $33 billion so its burden can be considerable. The 2018 New Year’s budget included the cost for border fences, but the Democratic Party opposed to pass it. So, Congress passed a month-long provisional budget bill to prevent the Shutdown, so they tried to make time to discuss this problem.
Meanwhile, Republican hard-liners and President Trump told the Democratic Party in early January that they would maintain the DACA program. However, at the same time, they also set a condition on agreement with the budget bill concerned with building giant fences in southern areas along the border with Mexico. It was a so-called “package deal” to settle all that the two parties wanted. The Democratic Party also showed an affirmative response on their suggestion. For detailed discussions, six members of Congress and President Trump met a few days later. However, Trump’s remarks were in question. He called immigrants from Haiti and Africa “people from shitholes.” After that, the Democratic Party refused to negotiate with Trump.
At the end of January when the provisional budget passed in December expired, Congress had to discuss the budget bill again. The Democratic Party wanted to link youth protection caused by the abolition of the DACA program to the budget bill. On the other hand, the Republicans tried to include the cost of constructing a border fence in the entire budget bill and pass it. Finally, they failed to narrow their differences and didn’t meet the quorum required for passing the whole budget bill, so the U.S. government went into Shutdown.
After the Shutdown
After the 19th Shutdown of the U.S, Congress continued an under-the-table negotiation to resolve the problem on Saturday, January 20th because if the Shutdown still continued after Monday, it would not be a surprise that ordinary citizens would feel a terrible vacuum in civil services. Also, this problem could have an impact on the party preferences for midterm elections to be held in November, so members of Congress were more cautious than ever. The federal Senate ended up finally passing the provisional budget bill again. Actually, this budget bill doesn’t include the expense of building the border barrier. Instead, passing this three-week budget, lawmakers promised to discuss in depth together the issues of helping immigrants and the border barrier.
However, at the time when this article was written (near the end of January), it is still questionable whether discussions on the DACA program and the border barrier will be completed by the beginning of February when this provisional budget bill expires again. The Washington Post said regarding the result of the Shutdown that “The winner of this Shutdown is President Trump.” In the process of getting the provisional budget bill to pass, the Republicans announced to the Democrats that “If there is no agreement on the DACA issue by February 8th when the provisional budget will finish, we will allow the Senate to start voting on the law about DACA proposed by the Democrats. This announcement has won the cooperation of the Democrats. However, it was not the answer to a fundamental solution.
Trump and other Republican immigration hard-liner policies and the Democrats failed to make an agreement and resulted in the Shutdown. Afterwards, the immediate problems were somewhat alleviated by the provisional budget bill, but it may take a long time to solve the conflicting interests of the opposing parties. We should pay attention to what President Trump, who had the biggest political crisis after his inauguration, will do in his next steps.
< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >