“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.” These are the words of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump that became the foundation for his 2016 presidential campaign’s stance on Mexico. Now, nearly four years after he declared it to thousands of his supporters, his promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is being tested.
Trump first threatened a government after negotiations with Democratic leaders in Congress. Trump convened with current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY to request support $5.7 billion border wall. Pelosi and Schumer refused, causing Trump to warn America about an imminent shutdown.
However, Politico claimed that Trump would be flexible with passing a bill that didn’t fund the wall and delay the shutdown into 2019, when the new 116th Congress would be sworn in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, D-KY, said that after meeting with Trump, he had the impression that the President would be “flexible” over funding the wall and that the government would not shut down on Dec. 22 But any thoughts of postponing the shutdown were quickly erased when, after facing growing disapproval from conservatives in the media and the government, Trump proclaimed he would not sign any bill that did not include the desired $5 billion. The Senate was not able to agree on moving the resolution forward, and the shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018.
There is no sure sign of the shutdown ending. At 24 days (at time of print) now the longest shutdown in U.S. history, beating the 21-day shutdown during the Clinton Administration in 1995. It is expected to leave nearly 400,000 federal workers without pay if it continues, and while the Trump administration has ordered the I.R.S. to send out tax refunds during the shutdown, the I.R.S. workers themselves will not be paid for their services until after the shutdown.
The effects reach far beyond Washington, too. Breweries needed approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (an organization in the Department of Justice) for new labels, the Department of Commerce cannot process requests from companies wanting an exemption from Trump’s tariffs on metals, and farmers seeking subsidies to recover from the effects of the trade war will have to wait for the Farm Service Agency in the Department of Agriculture to open.
Trump delivered his first Oval Office address Jan. 8, stating his desire to talk about the “humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border” via Twitter. He opted to stress the importance of building the wall and evoke emotional support, saying “I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, or the sadness gripping their souls” to justify having a barrier at the border. “How much more American blood must be shed before Congress does its job?”
In a televised response to the address, Pelosi and Schumer criticized what they viewed as the president’s fixation on the border wall and his unwillingness to end the shutdown. “The president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would re-open government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall,” said Pelosi.
Both speeches did little to assure the American public of an end to the shutdown, instead focusing on backing their own agendas without compromising. The president and Democratic leaders in Congress have to find a way to come to an agreement or the effects of the shutdown will multiply onto the American people.