His­tory’s long­est shut­down shows no signs of end­ing

Dec­la­ra­tion of emer­gency would give Trump a way out, but tim­ing not clear

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Michael Collins, John Fritze and David Jack­son JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AP

WASH­ING­TON – The par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down is now the long­est in Amer­i­can his­tory.

The shut­down en­tered its 22nd day on Satur­day, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous 21-day record set dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Nine fed­eral de­part­ments and sev­eral smaller agen­cies – one-fourth of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment – re­main closed as the stand­off bar­rels into its fourth week with no end in sight.

Mem­bers of the House and the Se­nate went home to their dis­tricts Fri­day and won't re­turn un­til Mon­day, en­sur­ing that parts of the gov­ern­ment will be closed at least through early this week.

Here's what to know about the sit­u­a­tion.

When will it end?

Hard to say.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is threat­en­ing to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency so he can ac­cess fed­eral funds to build a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der. That

would al­low the gov­ern­ment to re­open, since the shut­down stems from a bud­get bat­tle be­tween the White House and con­gres­sional Democrats over bor­der wall fund­ing.

But ex­actly when Trump might in­voke an emer­gency isn’t clear.

Trump sug­gested dur­ing a trip to the bor­der in Texas on Thurs­day that an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion could come at any time if ne­go­ti­a­tions with Democrats fail to yield a deal on his de­mand for $5.7 bil­lion in bor­der wall fund­ing.

But Trump played down the prospects of an im­mi­nent emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion on Fri­day, say­ing he wasn’t “go­ing to do it so fast.”

A sign that he’s se­ri­ous about declar­ing an emer­gency: The Pen­tagon is pre­par­ing op­tions to build bar­ri­ers along the south­ern bor­der if Trump does de­clare a na­tional emer­gency there. An emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion would al­low the Army Corps of En­gi­neers to de­sign bar­ri­ers and al­low con­tracts to build them.

An emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion by Trump would be cer­tain to face le­gal chal­lenges that could drag on for years. But it would give the pres­i­dent an exit strat­egy from the bud­get im­passe and end the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

What has been the im­pact?

The shut­down has rip­pled across the coun­try since it started Dec. 22.

On Fri­day, some 800,000 fed­eral work­ers missed their first pay­check since the shut­down be­gan. The em­ploy­ees have been forced to take un­paid leave or work with­out pay, leav­ing many won­der­ing how they will pay their mort­gage or rent, make car pay­ments and make ends meet. Some busi­nesses have re­sorted to offer­ing fur­lough free­bies, such as free meals and restau­rant dis­counts, to tide the dis­placed work­ers over un­til their next check.

Tourists in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal have been forced to come up with al­ter­na­tive itin­er­ar­ies as a re­sult of the shut­down. Pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tions like the Na­tional Zoo, the Smith­so­nian mu­se­ums and na­tional mon­u­ments are all closed.

Na­tional parks across the coun­try have been feel­ing the shut­down’s im­pact. The Na­tional Park Ser­vice has been re­ly­ing on char­i­ties, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and oth­ers to keep na­tional parks open. But many of the rangers and oth­ers who staff camp­grounds and keep the parks run­ning have been fur­loughed, caus­ing trash to pile up and cre­at­ing other un­san­i­tary con­di­tions at trea­sured land­marks.

Van­dal­ism also has been a prob­lem. At Joshua Tree Na­tional Park, van­dals cre­ated il­le­gal roads through the south­ern Cal­i­for­nia park by cut­ting down sev­eral Joshua trees, which are na­tive to the desert and have an av­er­age life­span of about 150 years.

Air travel has been ham­pered by the shut­down. Avi­a­tion groups have warned of longer wait times and pos­si­ble check­point clo­sures at ma­jor air­ports and have raised con­cerns that pas­sen­ger safety and se­cu­rity has been com­pro­mised. Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port is clos­ing one of its ter­mi­nals Satur­day through Mon­day be­cause many Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion officials are not re­port­ing to work, and air­port officials weren’t confident they would have enough screen­ers on duty.

The shut­down is even caus­ing re­ver­ber­a­tions in space. Re­pairs to the main cam­era on the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope have been de­layed be­cause of agency clo­sures.

How have oth­ers ended?

Be­fore the cur­rent stale­mate broke the record, the long­est shut­down lasted 21 days and oc­curred in late 1995 and early 1996. The lapse in gov­ern­ment fund­ing was trig­gered by a bud­get bat­tle be­tween Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and House Speaker Newt Gin­grich. It ended when the two sides agreed to a seven-year bud­get plan with some spend­ing cuts and tax in­creases.

In 1978, the gov­ern­ment shut down for 18 days when Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter found him­self at odds with Con­gress even though Democrats con­trolled both the House and Se­nate. Carter ve­toed a de­fense bill that in­cluded fund­ing for a nu­clear-pow­ered air­craft car­rier and pub­lic works leg­is­la­tion that in­cluded fund­ing for wa­ter projects. Fund­ing for the De­part­ment of Health, Ed­u­ca­tion and Wel­fare was de­layed be­cause of a dis­pute in­volv­ing Med­i­caid fund­ing for abor­tion.

That shut­down finally ended when Carter man­aged to get the projects he op­posed stripped from the leg­is­la­tion, and the House and Se­nate passed a bill that ex­panded the ex­cep­tions to the Med­i­caid abor­tion ban to in­clude rape and in­cest.

A 16-day shut­down in 2013 stemmed from a fight over fund­ing for the Afford­able Care Act. Un­able to re­peal Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law, Repub­li­cans in Con­gress ap­proved a tem­po­rary mea­sure that would fund the gov­ern­ment but would cut fund­ing to im­ple­ment Oba­macare. The Se­nate, con­trolled by Democrats, re­jected the plan. The stand­off ended when Repub­li­cans con­ceded de­feat and a deal was worked out to re­open the gov­ern­ment.

Avi­a­tion groups have warned of longer wait times and pos­si­ble check­point clo­sures at ma­jor air­ports and have raised con­cerns that pas­sen­ger safety and se­cu­rity has been com­pro­mised.

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