The government shutdown on Jan. 20, 2018 was well anticipated but still surprising. It comes only five years from the 2013 Obama era shutdown that stemmed from disagreements on Obamacare (formally known as the Affordable Care Act). This time the disagreements are on a key point that has divided the nation since 2016 presidential campaigning and has ultimately divided the United States Senate this month: immigration.
Senate Democrats and some Senate Republicans have thwarted an attempt to pass a short-term bill by 50-49 — sixty votes were necessary for it to proceed. Many voted no because of the lack of protections on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): protection for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children. Now, it’s approximated 700,000 DACA recipients will be impacted although the DACA decision deadline isn’t until March 5 because there currently isn’t a plan ahead.
Although DACA is at the front and center for Democrats, it isn’t the only thing impacted by the delay caused by the government shutdown. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is an insurance program for children whose families earn too little to receive Medicaid but don’t earn enough to get privatized healthcare. CHIP is being used as a bargaining tactic. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans agreed to offer a six-year funding extension to a program that has been out of funding since September in exchange for passing the bill, which ultimately flopped.
Along with DACA and CHIP recipients, a substantial amount of federal employees will be impacted, along with the Americans who rely on them. Many estimate the number of federal employees furloughed or temporarily laid off at 800,000 using data from the 2013 shutdown. Federal employees deemed essential or in self-funded departments will continue working, although those not in self-funded organizations deemed essential will work without pay until the Senate reaches an agreement that is passed. Whether the employees get back pay is left to Congress, and many Senators are already planning for it.
While decisions are in the air, it’s important to tell your senator and representatives what they should propose and vote for. Call, text, or send letters to their offices to have your opinion heard while plans are in motion. DACA only has until March and by then numerous people will be impacted drastically.
Ultimately, a government shutdown isn’t the end of the world or even the disintegration of the entire United States. It’ll leave certain programs unfunded and employees furloughed. Many fingers will be pointed but the blame isn’t on the Democrats or Republicans, but rather on the Senate as a whole for failing to serve the people that elected them.
Photo: Aaron Kittredge