As of January 7, 2019, we’ve begun day 17 of the third-longest Federal Government (Partial) Shutdown on record. Ostensibly, the shutdown is over funding to build a wall on the country’s southern border, between the United States and Mexico. President Trump wants $5 billion allocated for the wall, while the House of Representatives have only offered about $1.3 billion, and they really don’t even want to spend that much. In point of fact, the Democrats don’t want a border wall built at all. One wonders if they’d also like to dismantle whatever portions of a border barrier already exist, but I guess it would cost money to tear that down.
Note that the dispute is not over the idea of a barrier on the border to prevent people from surreptitiously entering the United States. The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which has recently been used to – incorrectly – suggest that the Democrats are in favor of a border wall, easily passed and was signed into law. Even though the bill has the word “fence” in the title, the summary of the bill uses the terms “physical infrastructure” and “physical barriers,” and also includes surveillance using a combination of technologies. The summary does use the word fence in some text that requires “fence completion” in at least a couple of instances, but it’s unclear to me if that means to finish a fence that was already approved and funded, or if it refers to a new fence. In any case, the majority of Congressmen and Senators who voted for the bill certainly should have known that “physical infrastructure” and “physical barrier” could mean something other than a fence.
By the way, it may cost as much to re-open the government when all this is settled (and it will be, one way or another) that the $5 billion that the President wants to build the wall. So from a purely financial perspective, the bickering is a wash. If this shutdown should stretch on until the cost projections exceed $5 billion, you can be sure that President Trump, the Republican caucus, and conservative news outlets will point that fact out, and, in my opinion, it will hurt the Democrats who now hold the purse strings for the country.
Finally, in the definition of “fence” at Dictionary.com, the first definition is: “a barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc., usually made of posts and wire or wood, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary.” (Emphasis on the word “usually” is mine.) But “usually” is not “always,” so one could successfully argue that a wall is a type of fence.
Many people are being negatively affected by this shutdown, with those who work for the Federal Government and some of its contractors on the front lines. Even though they will eventually get paid for this time – which they didn’t work – things like rent or house payments, healthcare, utilities, and food still have to be paid now.
So, Democrats, give the President the $5 billion and let the Federal Government “re-open.” After all, Congress spent between $2 billion and $3 billion on the “Cash for Clunkers” program (which didn’t even work) without needing a “Government Shutdown.” Just go ahead and spend the $5 billion.