Democrats in turn blamed Republicans and Trump for a basic failure to govern, noting that this shutdown is the first in history to occur when a single party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. And they blamed Trump for repeatedly backing out of agreements that would have resolved the dispute.
The last shutdown in 2013 was a fairly straightforward ideological fight: Under pressure from conservatives, Republicans refused to fund the government for 16 days in an ultimately futile bid to deny money for the Affordable Care Act. This time around, immigration is at the center of the impasse. But the dynamics are more complicated than they were in 2013, involving not only young immigrants, but also children’s health care, military spending, and an inexperienced president whose tumultuous first year in office ended, perhaps predictably, in crisis.
Here’s a rundown of the factors at play:
This is the biggest cause of the shutdown. Ever since Trump announced in September that he would end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5 unless Congress acted to extend it, Democrats in the House and Senate have been clamoring for a permanent legislative fix to protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers.
Prospects for a quick agreement brightened briefly in September after Trump appeared to sign off on a framework with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer; that plan would have traded the Dream Act for additional security at the border. But under pressure from immigration hard-liners, Trump backed away and added a whole new set of demands for a DACA deal, including funding for his border wall and significant changes to the legal immigration system.
Pelosi promised immigration activists that Democrats would not leave for the year without addressing DACA, but Senate Democrats agreed just before Christmas to punt the fight to January. With Friday’s funding deadline approaching and no immigration agreement in sight, Democrats in both the House and Senate this week decided to make a stand.
Long-term budget deal
The reason Democrats have leverage to demand an immigration deal in exchange for their votes to keep the government open is that Congress has repeatedly blown past spending deadlines. The fiscal year began October 1, but instead of passing full-year appropriations for each federal department and agency, or bundling them all into an omnibus, lawmakers have relied on a series of stopgap spending bills known as continuing resolutions.
The biggest holdup to a bipartisan budget agreement is a fight over whether a significant increase in defense spending demanded by the Trump administration must be matched by an equal boost in domestic spending, which Democrats want. Officials in both parties have said in recent days that the two sides are actually close to a budget deal, but that Democratic leaders won’t give it their blessing until an immigration agreement is also reached. “The caps deal is very, very close and I think Dems are holding out on the caps deal because of these DACA negotiations,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week.