As the country faced its sixth day of a government shutdown, President Donald Trump began his day Thursday by defending it. After the shutdown went into effect on Dec. 22, federal employees around the nation went on the Christmas holiday without knowing when they'd be paid or get back to work. In a tweet on Dec. 27, Donald Trump claimed the government shutdown is hurting Democrats more, and it may be true — possibly.
The government shutdown began on Saturday morning after a failure for Congress to agree on a spending measure, sparring over the question of whether to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has been a signature promise of Trump's. While the government remains shut down, thousands of government employees remain home, unpaid, while other "essential" employees still have to work with no guarantee of a paycheck. And this week, Trump pressured Congressional Democrats anew by mentioning those affected by the shutdown.
"Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border," tweeted Trump on Dec. 27. "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?" The president didn't appear to cite any data to back up that claim. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on this statement, but did not receive a response at time of publication.
A 2010 Gallup poll showed that Democrats comprised more of the unionized federal workforce than Republicans, but nonunion federal employees tilted Republican. However, the poll suggested an overall similar share of workers, and these figures might have changed since.
Another indicator might give some insight. According to an October 2016 report by The Hill, about 95 percent of campaign contributions from federal employees went to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. And using 2018 data, a Washington Post examination of campaign contributions by employees of four government agencies affected by the shutdown (the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Justice, Agriculture, and Homeland Security) shows that a majority of donations did in fact go to Democratic campaigns. While a potentially strong indicator, these figures don't necessarily reflect all U.S. government employees, nor do they necessarily mean that the majority of those employees themselves are Democrats. (In fact, Gallup found in that 2010 poll that approximately one-third of federal employees were Independent.) So take this with a hearty grain of salt.
Regardless of party, though, about a third of U.S. government employees are affected by the shutdown, as only a portion of the government is shut down. Some critics responded negatively to both the shutdown itself and the president's characterization of those affected, appearing to take it as a politicization of employees who work in the service of the American people and not any specific party.
"This is outrageous," tweeted Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia on Thursday, "Federal employees don't go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. They're public servants. And the President is treating them like poker chips at one of his failed casinos." Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, also a Democrat, for her part, said that "Instead of bringing certainty into people's lives, President Trump is continuing to hurt workers & families" by forcing a shutdown.
Trump's tweet came after he'd made another claim in defense of his border wall funding demands this week. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Christmas Day, he said that he had the blessing of those affected by the shutdown, claiming, "federal workers want the wall." It's not clear which or how many employees may have expressed a desire for Trump to continue holding the line, and he didn't appear to provide specifics at the time. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's questions on the subject. In fact, as The Washington Post notes, a CNN poll from this month showed that the majority of Americans don't support a border wall regardless of who funds it.
As for the shutdown itself, some representatives of the federal workforce appear downright opposed to it. "This shutdown is a travesty," Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told the Post, and cited a poll of union workers that 85 percent planned to curtail their holiday spending to account for the impact to their paychecks.
The shutdown drama which culminated on Friday has unfolded over a series of weeks, made more complicated in part by the president's ever-changing positions and demands. In a Dec. 11 Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump said he would be "proud" to shut down the government over the border wall funding issue and offered to "take the mantle" for doing so. He also assured the Congressional leaders that he wouldn't blame their party for it.
But just 10 days later, when the shutdown went into effect on the Friday before Christmas after Congress failed to pass a spending bill, Trump went back on his word, referring to the situation as a "Democrat shutdown" and calling on his Congressional counterparts to be bipartisan and work towards a solution despite having expressed his own willingness to dig in his heels on his own position. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on Trump's Dec. 21 statement at the time.
As for the funding itself, though Democrats have promised Trump funding for border security generally, it's become less and less clear what Trump's idea of a wall actually looks like. In his Dec. 21 address, referring to the migrants coming into the country, he said,
The only way we're going to stop that is with great border security, with a wall, or a slat fence, or whatever you want to call it — we need a great barrier.
This is the third government shutdown to take place in the 2018 calendar year (though the federal government is already two months into the 2019 fiscal year) after brief closures in January and February 2018.
Though Congress has already passed spending bills to fund some departments, such as the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, per CNBC, some 800,000 employees at a number of other federal agencies are affected.
For now, just how long the shutdown will last remains unclear. The House and Senate as of Dec. 21 had respectively passed their own versions of spending measures to keep the government in business but neither version got the approval of both houses of Congress and the president's sign-off. Until a bill can pass both houses and get Trump's approval, the shutdown will presumably remain in effect. With the impasse broiling in Washington over border wall funding, the end doesn't appear to be in sight.