A Look at the Longest Government Shutdown in United States History


The longest United States government shutdown in history lasted 34 days. This was the third shutdown of the Trump presidency, and was focused on the funding he had hoped to acquire for the border wall. Although the government reopened on January 25, 2019, both sides of the aisle have felt clear ramifications from the month-long shutdown.

The main reason for the shutdown was the disagreement between the parties regarding budgeting. President Trump, backed by the Republicans, requested $5 billion to fund the Southern border wall. The Democrats denied this budget order and made clear they were not going to give him the $5 billion he requested. As the shutdown loomed on, it became a messy partisan fight with furloughed workers and angry politicians.

A protest against the government shutdown. (Source: Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the voice of the President in the Senate, making clear Republicans were behind President Trump. He consistently expressed the GOP support of the President and other politicians echoed this message.“Speaker of the House has decided that opposing President Trump comes before the security of our borders,” said Senator Mitch McConnell during a floor speech.

Border security was a major campaign point for President Trump. Specifically regarding the issue of the wall, he has stated that Mexico would pay for it, but once they refused, the United States was tasked with paying for it. He has made a point to tap into the reputation of illegal immigrants being highly dangerous people. With the most recent shutdown as an attempt to sway politicians, the President made a point of saying that many powerful people have walls around their homes. At one point, he argued that people build walls around their house “not because they hate the people outside but because they love the people inside.” This argument became a common talking point for many of his supporters and was used during his State of the Union Address. The President said that “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls, and gates, and guards.”

As for the Democrats, their main focus in the shutdown was not giving the President any money to fund the border wall. As an attempt to negotiate, the Democrats offered the President $1.3 billion for border security, not for the wall. President Trump dug his heels in and made clear that he was not going to reopen unless he was offered his $5 billion for the wall. Throughout a string of press conferences, Speaker Pelosi reiterated the idea that the Democrats were not going to give the $5 billion he was asking for. Along with the numerous press conferences, there was a televised meeting between Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Vice President Pence, and President Trump. In this meeting, there was disagreement about the possible budget deals as well as border security.

Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Pence, and President Trump during the televised Oval Office meeting. (Source: AP Photo)

As it became clear that the shutdown was not going to end quickly, the Democrats went public saying that there were bipartisan bills in the house and the Senate that they could pass to reopen the government. According to numerous representatives, leaders in the Senate were not going to let the bills be heard. The bills were not exclusively for the Democrat vote and had received backing from the GOP as well.

Once the government went out of session for their yearly Christmas break, things went quiet for awhile. Come January, President Trump called on Nancy Pelosi to make a deal to reopen the government. After this call for legislation, the took place. At this meeting, the President called on Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to argue why the border wall should be built. After the meeting, the Democrats made it clear they were not going to provide budgeting for the Southern Border Wall.

President Donald Trump during his live television address. (Source: Associated Press)

After this meeting, the President decided to address the country on TV. There was speculation he was going to declare a national emergency, but that was not the case. He went on air and argued for the border wall, trying to gain support from citizens. His speech was met by an on-air rebuttal, given by Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. This rebuttal stated the consistent message of the Democrats during the shutdown: they refused to give money for the Southern border wall, they were more focused on trying to find a way to negotiate border security and end the government shutdown.

Although the shutdown ended on January 25, 2019, there are still numerous obstacles. The economy was greatly impacted as furloughed workers now must work to regain their financial stability. Caught in the crossfire of partisan politics, thousands of Americans are struggling to regain their economic footing and are looking at their representatives to fight for their wellbeing.

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