A partial government shutdown is a total government failure.
How can closing a significant portion of the government, potentially disrupting services to millions of people and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees worried about pay, be worth a dispute over $4 billion in a $4 trillion budget?
Is it worth it for the many low-wage workers who probably won’t get backpay because they clean government buildings or serve food in cafeterias as contractors?
It is to President Trump, who days before proudly took ownership of the holiday-season shutdown. It started early Saturday, after the White House rejected a deal that would have provided temporary funding to keep the government running.
“It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director and acting chief of staff told “Fox News Sunday.” This is the same Mulvaney who called Trump’s plan for a border wall “absurd,” “simplistic” and “almost childish” during the presidential campaign.
While Mulvaney said the shutdown could last until the new year, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the House, was less pessimistic.
“I’m certainly hopeful it doesn’t last any more than 24 hours after Christmas,” Hoyer said during a telephone interview. “The good news is Monday is a holiday. Christmas is obviously a holiday. I’m hopeful that by the end of Christmas, we will … have opened up government.”
Bearing the brunt of the shutdown are people like Bonita Williams, 56, who cleans State Department offices and lives paycheck to paycheck. During previous shutdowns, she and other low-wage contract workers didn’t receive backpay like federal employees did. If she is furloughed this time, she’ll suffer.
“My concern right now is that I only work 20 hours a week as a part time, and I need every day of my pay to make ends with my rent,” she said Sunday. “So, by me missing one day and not getting paid for it, it’s making my rent short. … I’m going to accumulate late fees. I’m going to have to take that out my next check, which is going to make me short on my rent the next month. You know, it’s just going to be one month to the other that I’m going to be late getting my rent in. … I’m not able to pay my rent if I miss one day, if I miss one hour of work.”
Attempting to shift ownership for this government failure to Democrats, Mulvaney said, “the ball is in their court,” because the White House had offered to settle for less than $5 billion.
Democrats were willing to join with Republicans in approving over $1.3 billion for border security, but Trump demanded $5 billion toward a $25 billion border wall he bogusly promised Mexico would fund. The $4 billion difference between Trump’s demand and congressional willingness is pennies compared with Uncle Sam’s bank account. Democrats have proposed including a 1.9 percent pay raise in legislation to reopen the government.
While the shutdown stench covers Congress and the White House, it is another example that Trump has only regressed from entering office already unfit for the presidency. He took the blame and deserves it. So do the myopic, right-wing media loudmouths who pressured Trump to take a shutdown if he didn’t get funding for the wall.
Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham proclaimed “bring on the shutdown” following reports of a congressional compromise that did not provide the money Trump wanted. Steve Doocy, one of Trump’s determined cheerleaders on “Fox & Friends,” declared: “If there’s not a shutdown, he’s going to look like a loser.”
Talk like this leads David Atkins, a contributor to the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal, to conclude “Fox News is no longer the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is the legislative arm of Fox News.”
Right-wingers in Congress also pressured Trump. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, warned Trump that the Democratic takeover of the chamber next month means this is the last chance to fund the wall. My requests to interview Meadows went unanswered.
“Let’s stand up and fight,” Meadows said in a Fox News commentary. “It’s now or never.”
The fight he wants is on, and America is the loser.
But what does it tell the American people that Congress and the White House can’t find a compromise over a few billion dollars, Uncle Sam’s pocket change?
Hoyer rejects the notion that Congress can’t reach an agreement. A Senate-approved bill that did not include Trump’s wall money “would have passed handily” in the House had it been put to a vote, he said.
He added, $5 billion “is a lot of money [ . . . for] something that we think was just a campaign gimmick of the president.”
As Mulvaney’s earlier comment indicates, Republican support for Trump’s wall might not be as strong as Trump and the right-wing megaphone would make it seem. “The cold, hard facts are this,” Ingraham said, “Many Republicans have no desire at all to build the wall.”
Yet they now follow Trump down the shutdown sewer.