The longest government shutdown in the country’s history is over ­— for now.

On Friday, the 35th day of the standoff between President Trump and Democratic leaders, the president announced he would sign a bill expected to pass in the House and Senate to reopen the government for three weeks, without any funding for a border wall.

The move will allow departments and agencies like Homeland Security and the EPA to get back to work. Additionally, the 800,000 federal employees who missed out on their last two pay checks will receive back pay, although not immediately. 

The president's statement was given in the White House's Rose Garden ­— the place where weeks ago, he said he was prepared to keep the government shuttered for months if Democrats didn't agree to fund the wall. 

The main things people should know about this shutdown are how avoidable it was and how little was gained. 

How it all started … or stopped

One of the president's campaign pillars was border security. Specifically, a wall that Mexico would pay for. He said that during his presidential announcement speech and has repeated it numerous times.

The president has used statistics out of context and drawn some out of thin air to persuade his base that a wall is necessary. 

He's responded to critics by saying the newly-drafted trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada will pay for the wall. That deal has yet to be ratified by any of the legislative bodies of any country involved, and it's not clear whether it would save the country that much money. In December, Trump tweeted the U.S. loses $250 billion per year due to illegal immigration. That's not true. Estimates from a conservative think tank come in at less than half of that number. Additionally, experts have said it's difficult to say how a wall would affect that number. 

During his address to the country in January, he misquoted statistics about drug and human trafficking, failing to mention that the majority of that activity comes through legal ports of entry, which a wall would not prevent. 

Before that, Trump went toe-to-toe with Democratic leaders. However, Trump's usual sparring partner, Senate Minority Leader Chuck 

Schumer was joined by soon-to-be-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi presents a stark contrast for Schumer, who looked away while the president barreled forward judicial nominees and took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his word a year ago when they swapped increased border funding for a new DACA vote that never quite materialized.

On Dec. 11, Pelosi and Schumer met with Trump and reporters in the Oval Office to discuss immigration. The president wanted a wall. The Democrats didn’t. During the meeting, Trump said he would be proud to shut down the government if the new budget didn’t include $5.7 billion for a wall.

On Dec. 19, the Republican-led Senate passed a spending bill 100-0 to keep the government open, without funding a border wall. The next day, the president said he wouldn't sign it, starting the shutdown two days later, on Dec. 22. 

As the shutdown progressed, parks and museums were forced to close their doors and federal workers, like Border Patrol and TSA agents, worked without pay. Many of them stopped showing up to work, forced to find other ways of earning an income. In total, they missed two paychecks, which they'll receive in the near future.

Numerous polls showed the president's approval rating steadily declined, while similar polls showed more Americans were blaming him for the shutdown each day.

It's important to understand Trump wasn't the only Republican who could have ended the shutdown.

McConnell sat idly by, resigning his power to the president. 

The same man who voted before it all started to keep the government open — without wall funding — with a bill that passed 100-0, declined to vote on it again to override the president's decision. 

The longer the shutdown went, the more pressure mounted on Senate Republicans to do something. The Washington Post reported a private luncheon last week involving Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence turned contentious, with McConnell's colleagues blaming him and Trump for the shutdown.

“Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?” McConnell reportedly replied.

That's the third-highest-ranking member of the Republican party saying even he is frustrated by the president.  

The next day, the Senate voted on two options to reopen the government: the Democrat's plan without a border wall and the Republican's plan with one. Neither passed, but six Republican senators crossed party lines and voted with the minority party. 

The next day, the president gave his second statement from the rose garden, temporarily ending the shutdown with a resolution that looks nearly identical to the one passed on Dec. 19.

In the 35 days, Reuters reports it cost nearly $6 billion. 

Moving forward 

With the government set to close again in mid-February, the president has a few ways he could still get his wall — some via negotiation and some through executive power.  

"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency," Trump told reporters on Jan. 25.  

During the shutdown, reports emerged that the president considered declaring a national emergency along the southern border, which could allow him to re-allocate military funds for the wall. However, pundits and experts say doing so would land the administration in a court battle it might not win.  

Presidents have declared national emergencies before. George W. Bush launched one after the 9/11 attacks, allowing the president to extend deployment dates for military personnel. That declaration is still active. Bush and Barack Obama called for 25 emergencies, combined. 

Trump's wall would be an outlier of previous declarations. If the president declared an emergency, he'd likely do it as a way out of the mess he's made. By allowing the courts to decide the fate of his wall, he has someone else to blame.

While it might seem Democrats won't give in to Trump for the wall, there are a few bargaining chips the president could offer. During the shutdown, Trump offered Democrats temporary DACA protections, something the minority party has fought for since then Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed the protections for U.S. born children of illegal immigrants.  

If Trump were to restore DACA with safeguards in place, Democrats may be forced to give the president at least some of the funding he's asking for. 

However, Democrats could simply wait it out. Trump is stuck. If he ends the shutdown and concedes on the border wall, he'll upset his base supporters for the first time — ever. Fox News' Ann Coulter said he was a wimp for just temporarily ending the shutdown. But, if he sticks to his campaign promise, he loses prospective voters in 2020. 

Of the six Republican senators who voted with Democrats on Jan. 24 to reopen the government, three have seats up for election in 2020. Polls show people don't like the shutdown, and they blame the president. Trump is testing just how loyal his colleagues in the Senate are, and he might push his luck if he digs in his heels for the wall. 

What we're learning from this is that there's a fear among Republicans of the president, because no one knows what he might do, say or tweet next. His negotiation style seems rigid. If it's not a wall, it's not enough. It doesn't matter if Democrats offer funding for solutions that actually work, like increased personnel and technology. Trump isn't trying to solve border security, he's trying to fulfill an impossible promise. 

Joseph Thompson is the copy editor. Follow him on Twitter:@byjoeythompson.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.