The record-breaking 35-day government shutdown finally came to an end on January 25. President Donald Trump agreed to a temporary funding bill that would cover government expenses until February 15. However, the temporary deal does not include any funding for President Trump’s border wall; therefore, many speculate that the relief will be short-lived. Many view the recent shutdown as President Trump’s failure and his defeat to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States (U.S.) House of Representatives (HOR).
The longest government shutdown in American history left many distressed and various industries affected. It resulted in around 800,000 Federal workers going unpaid, an estimated cost of 6 billion dollars, and all services provided by the government stalled. The shutdown affected the lives of every American and many lost patience with President Trump and his cause.
The president’s stance throughout the shutdown has been clear and strong—5.7 billion dollars for border security. However, it appears that he has not given up on his demands despite the deal struck without a border wall. What seemed to be an unlikely bluff at the time is now dragging the country into turmoil for a wall nobody other than the president himself seems to want.
“Proud to Shut Down”
The funding proposal for a new wall was quickly dismissed by Democrats last year.
However, the president was adamant about receiving approval for his demand despite the lack of support. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” the president declared. He expressed his determination during a heated exchange with Democratic leaders Pelosi and Chuck Schumer back on December 11, 2018. The government shutdown began on December 22, 2018 when no agreement on the spending bill was reached before the deadline.
Professor Lim Sijeong. Provided by Korea University
Professor Lim Sijeong (Division of International Studies) explained why President Trump, a Republican, might view the government shutdown as an appealing bargaining chip to pursue his demands. “The logic is that many of the so-called non-essential federal government services directly affected by the prolonged shut down are Democratic Party priorities; temporarily disabling those services are allegedly more tolerable for the Republican Party whose constituents tend to be fiscally more conservative.”
President Trump Backs Down
However, as the historic shutdown hit a record-breaking duration, President Trump’s poll numbers declined to an alltime low. According to the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) News, the disapproval rate has hit 58 percent due to the shutdown. The growing revolt among Republican senators and disapproval for the shutdown in the president’s own support base has left him no choice but to reopen the government while stepping back from his demands.
The deal that ended the shutdown is seen as a clear defeat of President Trump by Pelosi. The shutdown ended with no money for President Trump’s wall, squandered economic growth, and financial stress for thousands of federal workers. All blame is dumped on President Trump, leaving him with a significant drop in approval ratings. However despite the apparent losses, the shutdown has still managed to achieve some of the president's agenda.
Professor Lim said, “President Trump has still succeeded in making illegal migration central in popular media. By announcing that he will declare a national emergency if no deal is reached, he, together with conservative media, has manufactured a sense of national crisis.” According to a poll conducted by POLITICO during the government shutdown, “a substantial minority (42 percent of respondents) view illegal migration as ‘a crisis’,” Professor Lim further clarified.
A National Emergency
“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall. If we do not get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15 again or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the U.S. to address this emergency,” announced the president at the end of the shutdown. He declared that his battle for border security was not over yet.
What the president meant by the “power afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the U.S.” suggests a possible declaration of a national emergency. If President Trump declares a national emergency, he will be granted executive powers during the crisis. The hypothetical assumption under a national emergency is that President Trump may seize and control funds from the Defense Department to redirect money to fund his construction project for border security.
According to Cable News Network (CNN), “Congress can undo a state of emergency declaration, but it would likely require a veto-proof majority, which is unlikely to come from the Republicancontrolled Senate.” The specific legal view on whether President Trump is actually able to declare a national emergency for border funding is unclear at the moment. However, it is clear that President Trump has presented a national emergency as his ultimatum that is going to be costly to either undo or make headway for Congress.
Pelosi criticized President Trump’s case for a new and stronger border wall between the U.S. and Mexico as “immoral, ineffective, and expensive.” What Pelosi said about Trump’s wall may be what the majority of Americans feel about it now. The initial campaign promise of President Trump was to make Mexico pay for the construction of a new wall. However his pledge appeared insincere when he demanded 5.7 billion dollars from American taxpayers’ money to fund the construction.
The political consequence President Trump is likely to face is certainly going to affect the upcoming presidential election. Stronger actions on border security from the president are anticipated at the moment since “border security and illegal immigration issues… were the defining pledges of his presidency.” Professor Lim further explained that Trump would need to take some other actions to prove to his base that he is still a man of action and a dealmaker.
Indeed, the broken immigration system of the U.S. is not going to fix itself by capping concrete blocks between the borders. Undocumented immigrants and terrorists, President Trump’s biggest target, that are already residing in the U.S. are not simply going to disappear by building a “big, beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Trump’s border wall may serve as a symbol of demand for better border security and a better immigration system but it is surely not the best practical solution for it. To hold the government hostage over a wall which many voters and experts no longer support is viewed by many as selfish and stubborn. President Trump may want to reconsider alternatives that would provide a more effective solution for border security.