Political scientist Edward Lozansky on how Donald Trump beat Bill Clinton’s record
Jan. 12, 2019 is a date that will go down in American history as a date that a record was broken. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a scientific, economic or sports achievement. The sad record for the length of a shutdown – the cessation of work in government organizations except those that are vitally important for the functioning of the nation – is broken. These vital functions include hospitals, electricity, water, the military, fire services, air traffic controllers and more.
The previous record of 21 days, set in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, was broken on the 12th. Both sides of the conflict – Republican leaders led by Donald Trump and the Democrats in Congress – have got their bits between their teeth and are waiting to see who blinks first.
As you know, the amount in question is $5 billion, or rather, $5.7 billion, which Trump requires for the construction of a border wall with Mexico. At the same time, according to Beth Ann Bovino, chief economist at the Standard and Poor’s 500 index, U.S. losses resulting from the shutdown already total $3.6 billion. If the shutdown lasts another two weeks, the total amount of losses for the U.S. economy will reach $6 billion, she said.
The crisis is somewhat mitigated by the fact that only 25 percent of civil servants are affected by the shutdown, while the remaining 75 percent were already funded until September of this year. However, 25 percent is more than 800,000 workers who are forced to cover household expenses without salaries. Obviously, not everyone has enough saved to mitigate this. It’s clear that for many, what’s happening is causing discontent, but many politicians are more concerned about who the American citizens will blame for the shutdown.
The situation doesn’t favor Trump: according to the results of public opinion polls, the majority of citizens (53 percent) believe that Trump and the Republicans are responsible for the shutdown. Nevertheless, the president’s base of supporters is still behind him, and as long as this is the case, Trump can afford to hold to a hard line.
Technically, Trump has the authority to declare a state of emergency. If he does, the Constitution allows the president to redistribute funding allocations without Congressional approval. For example, the billions needed for a wall could be taken from the $14 billion already allocated for infrastructure rehabilitation after the hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas, California and Florida. Trump also asked the leaders at the Pentagon to explore the possibility of allocating funds needed for the construction of the wall.
However, even some of Trump’s Republican supporters in Congress have warned him against rushing to make such a decision until the situation in the country has reached a critical level that would justify a state of emergency. If Trump does take this step, he’ll face litigation and the impeachment process will begin.
It would seem that it’s very difficult to find a “Russian connection” in a situation such as a shutdown. But the creativity of Trump’s opponents cannot be denied. Over the past few days, articles have appeared in various media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, stating that immediately after FBI Director James Comey was fired, the bureau opened an investigation into the possible successful recruitment of the president by Moscow. Trump is also accused of hiding the details of negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, confiscating all records from his interpreter and forbidding the interpreter from talking about it.
According to the U.S. media, this means that almost all of the actions taken by the president are being dictated by the Kremlin, including the shutdown. And it doesn’t matter that neither the FBI nor Special Counsel Robert Mueller have found any evidence of this conspiracy. According to the authors, any mention of his name next to Russia or Putin is another drop of water sharpening a stone. And in this case, sharpening the legs of the presidential chair in the Oval Office.
Meanwhile the shutdown continues, and so far, the terms of any deal to end it are still unknown.