The federal government finally reopened this week after more than a month of being “shut down.” Although hundreds of thousands of federal workers were either furloughed or forced to come to work without pay, they are all back to work and will receive back pay. Furthermore, federal spending only decreased by 7% during the shutdown, hardly what you would expect from an organization that was ostensibly “closed.” And who got the blame for the shutdown? President Trump.
While the office of President has become more and more imperial over time, the President isn’t a dictator, nor is he responsible for funding the government. Congress controls the power of the purse and Congress determines whether or not the government gets funded. And if the President doesn’t want to sign a spending bill, that’s the entire purpose of the veto override, that a two-thirds majority in Congress can override anything a President does.
Had Congress really been serious about wanting to keep the government open it could easily have done so. It could have engaged in more internal discussion and debate to try to get bipartisan support for a veto override. It could have come up on its own with the eventual solution, a three-week stopgap funding bill to allow for more time to negotiate about a border wall. But Congress wasn’t serious, so it didn’t negotiate.
Neither party in Congress was particularly keen to see the government reopen, as both parties saw the opportunity to discredit President Trump. Democrats are trying to make him the bogeyman for the government shutdown so they can benefit politically in 2020. Republicans wouldn’t be unhappy to see him the bogeyman either because that would help legitimize a primary challenger in the 2020 primaries.
By all accounts the American people have gone along with the media narrative that it’s the President’s intransigence that was to blame for the shutdown. They’re forgetting Congress’ role in this mess but they shouldn’t. Congress shouldn’t be allowed to get away with shirking its responsibilities any more.