Shut It Down

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The United States government has shut down for the second time in five years.

After a week of playing chicken, Congress failed on Friday to pass a spending bill to keep the federal government open. The bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate; the final vote was 50–49. The shutdown of the government came into effect at midnight on Saturday, January 20—exactly a year since Donald Trump became president.


This means that a number of “nonessential” government activities will cease. The last time the government shut down was in 2013, when Republicans who wanted to defund Obamacare refused to keep the lights on.

Trump and the GOP have attempted to to pin the blame for the shutdown on Democrats, most of whom voted against the spending bill because it does not contain protections for DACA recipients, among other things. Just before the shutdown took effect, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued an official statement calling Democrats “obstructionist losers” who were holding the government hostage for the sake of “unlawful immigrants.”

It’s true that if Democrats had collaborated with the GOP, the government would still be open. But let’s be extremely clear here: there’s no one to blame for the shutdown but Republicans.

The GOP controls all the branches of government. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t even get his whole caucus on board, with defecting votes from Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham. They only got to over 50 votes—let alone 60—because five red-state Democrats (Claire McKaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Doug Jones) voted with Republicans.

Over the past few months, it has been entirely the decision of the Republican Party to prioritize repressive tax cuts and repealing Obamacare over things like funding children’s healthcare, which they could have done literally any day before this. And, of course, it was Trump’s decision to rip away DACA in the first place, leaving nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants without a shred of protection. It was also Trump’s decision to blow up the awful compromise immigration legislation that Democrats were all but begging him to support. According to Democrats, that dynamic continued right up until the last minute.


The bill that passed the House late Thursday night and went down in the Senate on Friday doesn’t address DACA, disaster aid, or opioid treatment funding. But it does include tax breaks for multibillion dollar health corporations, all while only keeping the government open until February 16. And it only extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, instead of ten or more, which would actually save the government money. This is GOP leadership’s mockery of a “deal.”


This is all by design. Republican leadership will do their best to put the blame Democrats for “voting against children’s health insurance” and keeping the government closed. Over the next few days, they will do their best to inflict as much political pain as possible. But for the sake of the millions of children—as well as the hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth depending on them—Democrats need to stand their ground.

Clio Chang is a staff writer at Splinter.