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The On-Again, Off-Again Nature of the US Government

An in-depth look at what makes Washington tick, or not tick

115th Congress (US News & World Report photo)

115th Congress (US News & World Report photo)

Grace Tanch, Staff Writer

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The government is now temporarily back up and running, but just last week all non-essential government personnel were left without pay. Congress has until February 8th, 2018 to draft a budget solution or the government will once again shut down.


According to guidelines set by the Constitution, in order to fund all government activity and functionality, it is the job of Congress to draft the federal budget. In order for the budget to be approved, the House needs a simple majority vote, 51 votes, but the Senate needs 60 votes, a much higher standard to uphold. Since the approval requires votes from both parties, it is often used as a bargaining chip for compromise between the two parties on an array of issues. This is the case for the most recent 2018 government shutdown.


On January 20, 2018, at midnight, the clock ran out on the federal budget. Republicans and Democrats were unable to come to an agreement on the Dreamer’s Act, commonly referred to as DACA and President Trump’s infamous wall.


Due to the political gridlock, all government activity was shut down except for essential positions. According to, benefits such an unemployment and veterans’ benefits were delayed, and paychecks were bounced.

NSA, TSA, FBI, federal and VA hospital doctors and nurses, the US Postal Service and a few other agencies continued to operate. These groups were essentially working for free until the government catches up enough to write their paychecks.


Such is the case for government employee, father of Triton junior Lynn Wideberg, Bryan Wideberg, who was feeling the effects of the shutdown last week. Wideberg is a claims representative for the US Government Railroad Retirement Board.


“I feel it’s unfair how government employees are the ones that have to suffer every time the Congress and the President negotiate the budget,” said Wideberg. “If they can’t agree, the government shuts down and the federal employees are the only ones that don’t get their paychecks. When this happens I get upset because I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills. We go on unemployment and it takes a few weeks before we see the first check. By then it’s hard to catch up to the bills and you’re always behind.”


For some families, a government shutdown can be catastrophic while other families are relatively unaffected depending on their financial situation.


“The shutdown hasn’t really affected me and my family because neither of my parents work for the government so we don’t rely on the government to survive financially,” said senior Abby Confalone.


Aside from the financial aspect, other students have expressed other concerns about the possible consequences of the shutdown.


“I am more concerned about the message that the government is sending to the rest of the world. It makes us vulnerable to other countries and shows that we are weak,” said senior Sellers McDaniels of Atlanta, Georgia.


“The people that are supposed to be running one of the most powerful nations in the world are acting like teenage girls fighting over a boy when in reality people’s livelihoods are at stake,” said Maddie Ormond of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Even members of the armed forces and their families, who for obvious reasons continue to risk their lives for the American people during the shutdown, faced delayed paychecks and benefits due to the period of inactivity. According to, members of Congress continue to be paid while military personnel and others do not.

For this reason, the “Pay Our Military Act of 2018” was introduced on January 20, 2018, in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota. According to, the bill would reaffirm policies that military pay and death benefits in the event of a shutdown. The bill will be considered by the House Committee of Appropriations before being sent to the House and Senate for consideration.


On January 22, 2018, a bill was passed by the Senate and House to temporarily extend government funding. The bill extended funding until February 8th, at which time a more permanent solution will have to be conceived. It also included provisions regarding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Affordable Care Act, and the Federal Register.


If Congress is unable to find a solution to provide government funding by February 9, 2018, the government will again shut down. President Trump has yet to comment on the shutdown or its possible lasting effects.


AP US Government and Political Science teacher Timothy Coyle offered his opinions on the consequences of this shutdown and that the government shutdowns again on February 9, 2018.


“I do not think there is going to be any lasting tangible effects because [the most recent shutdown] was so short-lived. From experience, [a longer shutdown] can cause a demonstrably negative economic impact. My deeper concern with them is that every time we have another one, it increases cynicism and mistrust of the government,” said Coyle.


Another interesting possible consequence that Coyle proposed is one related to the health of the American people. If the government were to shut down again, for a long period of time, the Center for Disease Control would also be out of service. During one of the worst flu seasons that America has seen in quite some time, this could have serious even fatal repercussions.


Time will only tell the true aftermath of the shutdown and until February 9th, the American people are just going to have to wait and see.

1 Comment

One Response to “The On-Again, Off-Again Nature of the US Government”

  1. Hannah on February 13th, 2018 11:37 am



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