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Government shutdowns receive backlash

Are shutdowns as severe as they sound?

The government shut down from midnight on Saturday, Jan. 20 to Jan. 22. Though this only lasted about two days, government shutdowns are important political events that Americans need to pay attention to. The jargon that surrounds these events can be increasingly difficult to understand. In reality, a government shutdown tends to be less severe than many Americans believe, but there are negative effects of the federal government shutting down as well.

Photo credit: Jeremy Holder • CU Denver Sentry

The thought of the entire government halting its function of protecting and serving the American people is daunting. Government shutdowns surround the institution of a new budget. “The Constitution requires all federal spending to be approved by law,” Michael Berry, CU Denver’s Political Science Director of Undergraduate Studies, said. “Government shutdowns occur when legislators in Congress or the President cannot agree on appropriations bills to fund the government.”

The shutdown that occurred during the end of January resulted from the discrepancies between Republican and Democratic parties regarding funding for DACA and President Trump’s border wall. Democrats filibustered the appropriations bill, causing the government to shut down on President Trump’s one-year anniversary in office.

Senate Democrats agreed to end the shutdown once talks of a compromise on the DREAM act surfaced. Many Democrats viewed the shutdown as a loss due to a lack of progress gained from the event. President Trump told news sources that the shutdown was a “big win” for Republicans.

“Government shutdowns affect departments and agencies differently,” Berry said. “The effect on individual agencies depends on laws, such as the Antideficiency act, agency contingency plans, and directives from the Office of Management and Budget.”

Typically, most government offices remain open during a shutdown. According to NPR, “essential” government agencies remain open during a shutdown. That means that the military remains stationed, social security continues to send checks, and politicians continue to stay in office. Agencies that close are those deemed “non-essential,” such as the National Parks Service or government-funded research facilities like the National Ice Core Laboratory located in the Federal Center in Lakewood. During a 2013 government shutdown, 800,000 of the 2.1 million government employees were sent home. 800,000 is not a small number; it is roughly 38 percent of total employees.

“The OMB estimated that the 16-day government shutdown in 2014 resulted in a loss of between two billion and six billion dollars in domestic economic output,” Berry said.

During shutdowns, most CU Denver students are protected from the negative effects occurring in recent weeks. Federal student aid had already been awarded for the school year before the shutdown.

There have been more talks of another government shutdown initiated by the Democratic party to find an acceptable compromise for the DREAM act. “More shutdowns are to be expected,” Berry said.

“While government shutdowns remain rare, the increased reliance on the passage of multiple short-term spending measures, combined with brinkmanship between the parties, increases the likelihood of future government shutdowns,” Berry said.

Trying to understand a government shutdown can feel overwhelming, and it all boils down to this: specific  government agencies will shut down due to a lack in funding. Both political parties in the capital must agree on a budget for it to pass. If it fails to pass, then agencies lack the funds needed to function, resulting in the closing of many departments. Agencies will remain closed until a budget agreement is made.

In today’s political climate, disagreement between the political parties is increasingly common and Americans should not be surprised by more shutdowns in upcoming weeks.

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