Behind The Longest Government Shutdown in American History

Makenna Kemper ‘22, Staff Writer

At midnight on December 22, 2018, the United States federal government started what is now known as the longest government shutdown in history. The shutdown lasted until January 25th, 2019, making this a 35-day-long event. During this time, more than one-fourth of government activities were affected, causing government employees to either be furloughed, or forced to work without being paid. Although this political event affected the lives of many in the country, many people do not understand the extent to which the government shutdown impacted the nation.

You may be asking, “Why did the government shut down in the first place?” To answer this question simply, this event started because the United States Congress and President Donald Trump were not able to agree on an appropriations bill to fund the operations of the federal government for the 2019 fiscal year. An appropriations bill is passed yearly in the United States’ government, which is basically legislation to appropriate federal funds to specific agencies, federal government departments, and programs. The particular source of conflict that sparked the shutdown was the construction of a wall along the Southern border, a project that served as one of Trump’s most well-known political promises. Trump’s request for five billion dollars in funding for the wall was rejected by Congressional Democrats, prompting Trump to shut down the government and engage the executive and legislative branches in a political stalemate. Now, the next question you may ask might be, “What kind of impact did this have on the American people?”

Out of the nine Cabinet departments and their 800,000 employees, 380,000 were initially furloughed while the remainder continued working. All of these workers were not paid during this period, damaging their financial security. As the shutdown continued to stretch from day to day, the numbers changed. Several agencies called furloughed employees back to work, but they all still continued to be unpaid. During the shutdown, it was reported that more than 24,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees continued to work without pay, and more than 17,000 were furloughed. Such upset and confusion drove the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to go as far as to file a lawsuit against President Trump and other officials.

The list of how the shutdown has affected the United States and its citizens goes on and on. This is an example of how much can happen in a very short amount of time and how important it is to reach compromise.