Opinion: Trump to Blame for Wasteful Shutdown
By Eli Morton, Columnist
Three weeks ago, a record was broken. It was a meaningful record; yet it was the kind of record that should never have its position in the books threatened. It was not broken in an intentional attempt to break it, and the reason why it was broken was so laughably minute that it seemed that it would not happen.
I am referring to the 35-day budget impasse that caused a record-long government shutdown. The previous record, 21 days, set during the Clinton administration, was also over silly politics related to President Clinton’s disagreement with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich over the Contract with America. However, this government shutdown obliterated the previous record-holder not only in terms of magnitude, but also in terms of the pathetic nature of the reason it began.
Donald Trump is responsible for this shutdown. Not only did he take credit for the shutdown in a December meeting between himself, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, but he continued to deny that the shutdown was hurting federal workers and manufactured a fake crisis at the border. The Oval Office address he gave was chock full of misstatements of the situation in the nation’s four southern border states. Most immigration experts indeed agree that a medieval wall is unnecessary.
Sizable majorities of Americans in some of the most reputable polls in the nation state that the border wall is unnecessary – the well-regarded Washington Post/ABC poll found that only 32% of Americans strongly supported a wall, and only 10% somewhat supported it, while almost 60% went the other way or had no opinion. Republicans shouldered the blame for the shutdown as well, and Trump’s approval dropped several points.
This blame was merited, not only because of the evidence that Trump is responsible, but because the underlying political strategy the White House used: it assumed that by holding the government hostage, its demands of Congress would be fulfilled. Respectfully, Mr. President, the Constitution would disagree with such a strategy. Congress is not an extension of the president’s authority. It is a separate, coequal branch of government which has its powers explicitly enumerated in the very first article of the Constitution. The president cannot directly control, even when his party is in power in Congress, the fate of any legislation making its way through the chambers, which makes the Republican argument that the only bill worth passing is a bill the president will sign even more ridiculous. Republicans purport themselves to be the party of strict constructionism, but this theory of the party has proven fallacious in this case.
Government shutdowns are unnecessary. They are wasteful. They are abusive. They are dangerous. There is no reason that the government, and, by extension, the American people, should be taken hostage over pet political projects that most of the American people do not support.