North AmericaShutdown now longest in US history The US government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next pay cheque, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate carry on another month.

Uncertain times: Transport security admin officers on duty at the departure area of the Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Getty
Uncertain times: Transport security admin officers on duty at the departure area of the Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Getty

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  • Shutdown now longest in US history
    Independent.ie
    The US government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next pay cheque, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate carry on another month.
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The US government shutdown is wreaking havoc on many Americans: hundreds of thousands of federal employees don’t know when they’ll see their next pay cheque, and low-income people who rely on the federal safety net worry about whether they’ll make ends meet should the stalemate carry on another month.

But if you’re a sportsman looking to hunt game, a gas company planning to drill offshore or a taxpayer awaiting your refund, you’re in luck – the shutdown won’t affect your plans in the slightest.

All US administrations get some leeway to choose which services to freeze and which to maintain when a budget standoff in Washington forces some agencies to close. But in the selective reopening of offices, experts say that they see a willingness to cut corners, scrap prior plans and wade into legally dubious territory to mitigate the pain. Some noted the choices seem targeted at shielding the Republican-leaning voters whom Trump and his party need to stick with them.

The cumulative effect is a government shutdown – now officially the longest in US history – that some Americans may find financially destabilising and others may hardly notice.

Russell T Vought, current deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said the overarching message from Trump has been “to make this shutdown as painless as possible, consistent with the law”.

Others say such a strategy suggests a lack of urgency and a willingness to let the political impasse in Washington drag on indefinitely.

“The strategy seems to be to keep the shutdown in place, not worry about the effect on employees and furloughed people, but where the public might be annoyed, give a little,” said Alice Rivlin, who led OMB during the 21-day shutdown in 1996, the previous recordholder for the longest in history. That’s a clear difference between then and now, she says.

“We weren’t trying to make it better. We were trying to emphasise the pain so it would be over,” she said. “We wanted it to end. But I’m not convinced the Trump administration does.”

Trump has refused to sign spending bills for nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments until Congress approves his request for $5.7bn to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. Democrats have refused.

Although most Republicans have stood by the president, others have expressed discomfort with how the strategy is hurting Americans.

Sunday Independent

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