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A Government on Thin Ice

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BRUNSWICK, OH- On Friday, January 19, 2017, the United States government shutdown due to the inability of Congress to appropriate funds to nonessential services. Congress failed to agree on one main issue: immigration. Healthcare, privacy, and national security have become compounding issues in the debate. However, this shutdown has been particularly interesting in the sense that a three-week extension has been given for negotiations.

The DACA program is the most debated issue of American government. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. These recipients are commonly called DREAMers, and they are illegal immigrants that came to America as children. DACA gives deportation protections to these children, but Republicans have not been willing to allow DACA into the new budget.

There have been plenty of government shutdowns before, but the new shutdown has been more than a disagreement in Congress. Activist groups have played a large role in this year’s shutdown.

Cristina Jiménez, executive director of United We Dream, the nation’s largest DREAMer advocacy group, explains, “The plan that they have laid out so far in terms of having a floor discussion and amendment process, all of that does not guarantee a vote and does not guarantee an outcome that’s going to save lives. We will not take no for an answer.”

Groups just like United We Dream are lobbying Democrats, so they continue to advocate for the DACA Program. Interest groups are also lobbying Republicans to support DACA. The larger numbers that support DACA, the better off interest groups are. While this may be hope for DACA recipients, the Congressional divide will be stronger than ever, and it will be likely that the government will shut down in February.

Joshua Huder, from Politico, explains, “Congress has morphed from a democratic arena weighing important policy differences to a debate-stunted PR firm. This is not exactly new, but the 115th Congress is reaching new levels of dysfunction. And as long as leaders seek brinkmanship over debate, shutdowns will become only more common.”

The main problem is that parties value other priorities, like immigration, rather than keeping the government open. Democrats look to interest groups, and Republicans look to Donald Trump, which has encouraged the divide in Congress. Republicans are making promises about DACA, but they have no way of proving that they can fulfill their promise. This will hold back a compromise between the two, which will push Congress towards a second shutdown.

However, the Democrats will be needed to pass routine governing bills. Democrats can then use these votes, in exchange for the DACA program.

Huder explains, “Democrats did not need to filibuster the short-term spending bill on Friday to get leverage for passing DACA. They already have it.”

There is an easy solution to a difficult problem, but members of Congress have to be willing to compromise to keep the government running and people’s lives afloat.

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A Government on Thin Ice