With the government shutdown now closing in on two weeks, the thought in everyone’s minds is how long it will last. Having come over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, there wasn’t too much that the federal government would have been doing anyway. But with a new Congress coming into session and looking to get down to business, many are wondering how long the government will continue to be closed.
While some departments were able to continue functioning over the holidays, keeping some museums and other functions going, more and more departments will be furloughing staff as the shutdown continues. The longest shutdown in recent memory was 27 days (over two different periods), and it’s not inconceivable that this one could last as long or even longer.
At the core of the shutdown is President Trump’s request for funding for a border wall. Neither Congressional Republicans nor Democrats were interested in providing funding for the wall, so President Trump has promised not to sign a spending bill that doesn’t contain the amount of funding that he wants to build the wall.
With Democrats showing no signs of giving in, and President Trump not willing to cave, there exists a possibility for a long and protracted shutdown. Since Trump is already feeling embattled and backed into a corner by what he sees as a conspiracy against his administration, he has nothing to lose by holding out. He could continue to hold out indefinitely, waiting out the new Congress and forcing them to the negotiating table.
In all likelihood it will be the Democrats in Congress who cave first, either through attempting a stopgap spending bill that funds the government for a few weeks or months in order to gain some extra time to negotiate or through capitulating to most of Trump’s demands. That would give them the ability to say that they reopened the government and the ability to pursue the legislative agenda they’re itching to push, while also giving Trump the ability to say that he won. But when that will happen is anyone’s guess. Since January is traditionally a slow legislative month anyway, what with party retreats, committee reorganization, etc. don’t be surprised to see the shutdown last into February.