As a child, I often fought with my brothers via video games, shouting matches, and physical altercations. The constant infighting came at the expense of my parents’ sanity, as they lived in a house filled with arguing kids. Although I fondly remember my childhood, I am not eager to see fighting between donkeys and elephants in Washington, at the expense of the American public.
After last week’s government shutdown, CNN and NPR graced us with articles detailing the impact of the standstill. These articles explained the short term effects of a government shutdown, which ran for a few days, until a deal postponed the problem until Feb. 8. Trump and Schumer need to reach a deal on immigration prior to this date, or the government will enter another shutdown. While the most recent pause was short, high tensions between Democrat and Republican leadership suggests the next deadline will not be reached. The issue at hand? Immigration. Schumer’s Dems refuse to budge on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and unless they agree to fund Trump’s wall, another shutdown is inevitable. For a portion of the liberal base, a shutdown seems to be the solution to slow Trump’s agenda, and force Republicans to compromise on DACA and other hot-button issues. However, government shutdowns harm at risk groups that Democrats claim to represent.
A 2013 White House blog release details programs that would suffer over an extended shutdown. To kick it off, services providing healthy meals to seniors and young children could lose funding. The EPA, already restricted from many of their normal duties by a restrictive boss, would cease monitoring protective services such as child product safety and financial monitoring of waste facilities. The IRS, charged with monitoring and explaining the new tax code to Americans, would be forced to furlough a significant number of its employees. During an extended shutdown, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could run out of funding without Congressional approval. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will halt money for housing vouchers. The Justice Department will stop civil cases. Finally, the Commodity Futures Trading Commissions, charged with oversight of the U.S. derivatives market, could shut down. Granted, many of these possible closures are based on the 2013 shutdown. However, those harmed most by a shutdown are at risk members of the population in need of healthcare, affordable housing, and assurance of safe living conditions. Meanwhile, members of Congress continue collecting paychecks, the military continues operations in the Middle East, Wall Street operates with even less oversight, the DEA pursues low-level drug dealers, and Democrats face majority blame for the shutdown in the eyes of the public.
As the leader of his party in the Senate, Chuck Schumer deserves responsibility for this shutdown. His insistence on DACA as a litmus test has forced Republicans, and Trump, to gouge concessions from the left, like a border wall. And Schumer hinted his openness to this proposal. To clarify, Schumer is willing to help DACA recipients, at the expense of significant political capital, and allow Trump funding for a wall, the biggest anti-immigration symbol in U.S. history.
At the end of the day, government shutdowns are happening and will continue to happen because they are the product of the intersection between short-term and long-term issues. Funding for CHIP will be held hostage while politicians yell ideological polemics about naturally controversial issues like DACA. The reality of the issue is that politicians use the government shutdown as a talking point for the coming election, for a justification to their voters as to why their opponents are worse than themselves.
Unfortunately, voters in America are short-term amnesiacs—for all of the unethical actions and heartless decisions that politicians make, only a couple are actually relevant and impactful by election time. It may be tough to watch Democrats compromise on the polarizing issue of immigration. For those in doubt about their status, the idea of waiting a few more months to know their fate is not an ideal situation. While I understand the anger of these undocumented immigrants and their need to receive permanent status, this is not the right time to pick a fight over DACA. The overused cliché, “lose the battle, win the war,” applies here. Waiting until after midterms, which look promising for Dems, could offer an improved bargaining position for the minority party. Taking DACA off the table for the Feb. 8 deadline will ease tensions in Congress and allow a deal to be reached, since party members in both camps agree that immigration is the controversial issue preventing a long term budget agreement. Such an agreement would continue funding for previously mentioned programs that would suffer, and allow Democrats to retain their image of helping marginalized groups, well deserved or not, if they were to press DACA after the midterms.
That will be the case, unless, of course, the Democrats get too caught up fighting with Republicans. They are humans after all. I hope.
Jack Leger is a member of the class of 2021. Jake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.