By Morak Babajide-Alabi
If words or bravado were anything to save the United States of America’s government, President Donald Trump would have offered so much. If twitching fingers were to avoid the partial shutdown of non-essential agencies of government midnight yesterday, Trump would have been saved by Twitter. Yet, if sentiments were enough to save the government, the president does know how to whip them up.
Unfortunately none of the above could save the partial shutdown of the American government as the Senate failed to pass the bill that would have kept the government “in operation” for the next four weeks. A partial shutdown automatically kicked in as all efforts failed and the government would now have to operate only essential services to keep going. This also means the White House would have to cut half of the total number of its staff during this period. Effectively the American nation is on lockdown.
This is unbelievable under the administration of a man who had boasted repeatedly in the past that he is a “deals man”. One would have expected Trump to use his deal powers to ensure the government keeps running at full capacity. It is no longer a secret that most Americans voters are now wiser than to swallow all his high sounding campaign rhetoric hook, line and sinkers.
This was one deal that Trump would have desperately wanted to win. It would have kicked off nicely the celebrations of a weekend of his one year in office. Unfortunately, it seems his legendary deal-making powers failed him woefully when it mattered most. Even the cancellation of his trip to Mar-a-Lago, Florida on the eve of the administration’s one-year celebrations could not stop the shutdown.
This administration is no stranger to controversies and many “firsts”. Effectively, Trump’s administration has gone into history books as the first to be shut down to “mark” its anniversary. I don’t think this would bother him much personally, but there is no doubt it might impact his electoral fortune in the mid-term elections coming up later this year.
Despite eleventh-hour efforts to save the Trump administration from this embarrassing situation, it was too little and too late. The last-minute talks between the “deals man” Trump and the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer over cheeseburger meals, could not prevent the shutdown. Both sides refused to budge and could not find any middle grounds for the sake of keeping the government running.
The largely Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed the bill to provide extra funding to tide the government over the financial storms. Unfortunately, the bill failed woefully in the Senate where a majority of sixty votes were needed to secure the continued running of the government. The votes ended at 50-49, far off the mark.
The Democrats had the Trump administration by the balls and had hoped they could squeeze them to get a few juicy demands met. They had anticipated that it was a good leverage to get the President to soften on some of his immigration reforms, especially the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals programme, known as DACA.
The Democrats had demanded the spending bill should accommodate protections for some of the younger immigrants facing deportation. The Trump administration is no fan or supporter of the immigration programme initiated by his predecessor Barrack Obama. The programme was funded to protect children brought to the US illegally by their parents. There are hundreds of thousands of them – known as Dreamers who rely on the programme and will technically be facing deportation soon when it is axed.
If only the president and his men were not as adamant on immigration reforms. If only they had agreed to bend back a little bit, this shutdown would have been avoided. It was reported the Democrats even negotiated supporting a funding plan for the infamous Trump’s US-Mexico border wall. It was not an option for the Republicans, it seemed.
Trump is renowned as a president who has no restraints on the use of words in public. He is regarded (quite rightly so) as one who, rather than unite his people, believe in the divide and rule tactic. No administration in recent times has moved from one controversy to the other as the Trump’s had in the past twelve months.
While we are yet to know how long this shutdown would be, it is sure that it could have been avoided. Rather than douse the fire, Trump had been stoking it for personal gains. Earlier in the week, he had accused the Democrats of plans “to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security.” For Trump, whipping up sentiments is part of his administrative style. He said: ‘The biggest loser will be our rapidly rebuilding Military, at a time we need it more than ever. We need a merit-based system of immigration, and we need it now! No more dangerous Lottery.”
Talking about the shutdown, we can recall the 2013 episode which lasted sixteen days. The tea party Republicans had sought an arm-twisting strategy to force President Obama to suspend the implementation of his affordable health care law. While at that time the lawmakers retired to bed with smiles of victory, this time around they are at the receiving end.
Kicking off the blame game, the White House issued an official statement on Saturday morning: “Senate Democrats put politics above national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans. We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizen’s hostage over their reckless demands.”
Democrat Schumer had lashed back and said Americans “can’t keep kicking the can down the road.” Referring to the immigration debacle, he concluded that “in another month, we’ll be right back here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better position to solve them.”
While the drama persists in Washington, the citizens are clearly divided in opinion on the style of leadership they have witnessed in the past twelve months. Their president had on many occasions embarrassed them by his pronouncements, some of which are considered childish and immature. This had made them question the mental stability of their commander in chief. No doubt, it has been an eventful year for the Americans.
One thing is sure, the Republicans have to move fast to ensure this shut down is not prolonged unnecessarily. It should be resolved as soon as possible. While this may mean some give and take on both sides, the Republicans have it as a duty to consider the plight of the “Dreamers” and act accordingly – shutdown or no shutdown. This is a matter of moral conscience, and not of party affiliation.
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of January 21, 2018.