At 5:30 a.m. Friday, Congress approved a budget bill for the next two years, putting an end to a series of short-term resolutions that had lawmakers scrambling to continuously update federal spending.
Crisis averted. Kind of.
The bill had a deadline of midnight Thursday night, meaning that in the additional 5 1/2 hours Congress took, the government shut down for the second time in three weeks.
“[A government shutdown] means basically that they can’t write checks on the government budget,” said Paul Beck, a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science. “Now, the executive branch can exempt certain parts of it, so they, for example, can fund employees who work in critical positions in the Homeland Security, and pay those workers. But there are other workers they can’t pay. They are not allowed to report to work. They can’t do any work. So, for instance, it shuts down the processing of visas and passports.”
Though federal agencies are usually given time to prepare for a shutdown, the brief stop Friday morning was so unexpected that the Office of Management and Budget was unable to notify the agencies of the potential shutdown until sometime Thursday evening, according to The Washington Post. The shutdown is not expected to cause much dysfunction because of how quickly it was resolved.
The brief shutdown was caused by debate over the contents of the bill, with many Republicans concerned about increased government spending, most notably Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Democrats holding out for protection of Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program recipients in the deal. The passed bill does not include DACA protection.
“I think it highlights an interesting aspect of our political system,” said Vladimir Kogan, a professor in the Department of Political Science. “We’re in a period now where one party controls the presidency and Congress but even that’s not enough to get things done.”
The new budget deal is considered by many to be a show of bipartisanship. Defense programs, domestic aid and disaster relief are a few of the points that account for the spike in spending. All are supported for the most part by each party.
“I always hope for opportunities for Congress to agree in a bipartisan way, and this was one of them,” Beck said. “As someone deeply disturbed by the dysfunctionality of Congress and the federal government in general, and the partisan polarization that underlies it, I was relieved by this example.”
President Donald Trump signed the bill into law soon after its passage, officially ending the shutdown.