The US government has gone into partial shutdown mode, as Trump’s US$ 5 billion proposal for a wall across the border with Mexico gets turned down in the Senate
Donald Trump has been pursuing his electoral promise of building a wall across the US-Mexico border diligently, but his plans have run into a tougher wall he cannot breach – the Democrats in the Senate.
There were long sessions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on Saturday, but there was no consensus for Trump’s US$ 5 billion border wall project. Trump even asked Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to use the ‘nuclear option’, implying the Bill could be passed with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes needed currently. The Grand Old Party (GOP, referring to the Republican party) only has 51 senators right now in the 100-member Senate. McConnell, however, has refused to take the option and several top Republicans have also opposed it.
The result is a partial US government shutdown that impacts 8 lakh federal workers, many of whom have gone home without pay during Christmas time. Some of them are working unpaid because they cannot be sent home.
The affected employees include those at NASA, Commerce Department, and Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture and State. Some of the national parks are closed, while visitors have to manage without services in others. The governor of New York has provided funds to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Park to keep them open to the public.
Trump had threatened to not approve the budget if the wall was not approved, which was effectively a threat for a shutdown. While the House of Representatives approved US$ 5.7 billion for the wall on Thursday, the approval is meaningless since the Republicans are only in control of the House till December.
Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer criticized Trump over the impasse, stating, “The Trump shutdown isn’t over border security; it’s because President Trump is demanding billions of dollars for an expensive, ineffective wall that the majority of Americans don’t support.”
Trump himself turned down a proposal last Thursday that would have kept the Government’s fund tap flowing till February 8 (although he had promised it earlier), but did not have any provision for the wall. Democrats have put up various options on the table including US$ 1.3-1.6 billion towards border security. They are ok with fences, but not at all in favor of the wall.
This is the third US Government shutdown since Trump took office. As of now, the Republicans are in charge in both houses but come January and the House of Representatives will come under Democrat control. Democrat Representative Nancy Pelosi of California has confirmed that they will look to end this within the first week of January 2019.
During his campaign, Trump had repeatedly stressed on the border problems with Mexicans, and quoted, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said on June 16, 2015. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He had even promised that he will make Mexico pay for the wall, but the latter has refused.