Dana Pierangeli: After the shutdown, is compromise possible?

Sunday, February 10, 2019 - 5:15pm

The longest shutdown in the history of the United States has finally come to a close, bringing a prosperous period of compromise and camaraderie to the government. Wait, that’s not right. This is the Trump era we’re talking about.

Let’s start again. The longest shutdown in the history of the United States has finally come to a close, and now there might be another one. The government has been temporarily reopened, but President Trump has declared if an agreement is not reached in three weeks, he will either shut the government down again or declare a national emergency to bypass Congress with his wall scheme.

The Congressional Democrats are not willing to fund an ineffective and costly wall, but have agreed to work on a deal to strengthen border security, in contingency with Trump’s wishes. Yet Trump is committed to his pet project, unwilling to compromise even when his own supporters are suffering from the government shutdown. There wasn’t even enough Republican support to pass Trump’s wall plan. Democrats and Republicans alike were in a frenzy trying to come up with a plan to end the government shutdown, despite no further ideas about the wall.

Even Trump’s supporters are fed up with all the disagreements. The Washington Post found that many of his followers, while still are in support of border security, find the government shutdown too high of a cost and mostly blame Trump for that. They sympathize with the thousands of government workers who are going without pay and are angry at Trump for putting his fruitless agenda ahead of the well-being of his citizens.

In this time of uncertainty, Trump needs to focus on what is important: serving the people. And he can’t do that if government is shut down, not paying health workers, environmental protection workers, air traffic controllers — everyday people who depend on their government salary to provide food for the table and services for the public. About 420,000 critical government employees were working without pay. About 380,000 non-critical government employees were sent home without pay during the shutdown, and 50,000 were called back to work without pay. Many were forced to look for part-time jobs in this time of crisis. In solidarity with these workers, more than 100 Congress members either rejected pay or donated their salaries, and are pushing for legislations that would dock congressional pay during shutdowns. While this is of course admirable and does benefit many people, it still does not alleviate the situation of other government workers. The only way to do that is to reopen the government and come to diplomatic solutions to the current issues.

We haven’t had a divided government since the end of the Obama adminstration, which means the government is no longer used to working with much pushback. A Republican-led House, Senate and executive branch weren't exactly in dire need of major compromises. Don’t get me wrong, Democrats taking back the House and reinstating a split Congress is definitely a good thing. With equilibrium reestablished in Congress, the checks and balances system can be restored. But it’s only effective if Trump understands that he now needs to compromise. He can’t shut down the government every time there’s a disagreement.

This goes past any arguments about the wall and border security. If the executive and legislative branch are so incapable of working together that they end up shutting down the government completely for 35 days, then there are obviously some greater issues with our country’s leaders. The government might as well be shut down until the 2020 election for how much valuable legislation will get passed if this behavior continues. There are many pressing issues plaguing our country that will need to be addressed in the next two years, and that won’t happen if Trump doesn’t learn to work in tandem with Congress to find those necessary solutions.

The government being split can be a great thing for the United States, with the checks and balance system in full effect. But that will only work if Trump is willing to compromise with Congress like a real politician. With a Republican House and Senate, he’s had it pretty easy so far and has gotten a lot of what he’s wanted. But now is the end of an era. Democrats are here in the House to stay, at least until 2020. There will be pushback. There will be disagreements. And that must come with compromise. It’s time for Trump to grow up and start being a real politician or the government may face another shutdown.

Dana Pierangeli can be reached at dmpier@umich.edu.