By Bobby Frederick, Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy
The funding dispute between President Donald Trump, determined to fulfill a campaign promise to build a wall along America’s southern border, and congressional Democrats who adamantly oppose it will result in the current federal government shutdown that began Dec. 22 becoming the longest one on record as of Jan. 12.
Trump continues to evaluate whether to resolve the impasse by declaring a national emergency and redirecting money already approved by Congress for disaster assistance to build the border wall.
The previous record for the longest federal government shutdown occurred in 1995-96 and also involved a divided government – Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Senate versus a Republican-controlled House led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Once that shutdown ended, Clinton and Gingrich went on to work together to enact several significant laws, including welfare reform and a telecommunications overhaul, as well as a Water Resources Development Act.
However, the Clinton shutdown occurred within a year of a midterm election while the current shutdown began shortly after a midterm election. In addition, with a handful of Democrats already announcing their bids to become the next commander-in-chief, elected officials on both sides of the aisle constantly will be balancing the fine line between enacting policy and engaging in presidential election politics for the next 22 months.
Committee Slot Spoils: “To the victor go the spoils,” and House Democrats are enjoying the perks of the majority, including promotions to powerful committees for some Agriculture Committee members.
Inside the Beltway, the House Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Ways and Means Committees are viewed as particularly powerful since they have jurisdiction over some of the most influential policies. With the 2018 farm law now enacted, several Democrats who previously served on the House Agriculture Committee have earned lofty new appointments. Among them are Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both of whom were appointed to the House Appropriations Committee. Meanwhile, Reps. Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., earned slots on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Roberts Retiring: Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced Jan. 4 that he will retire at the end of his current term in 2020. Roberts served in the House from 1981 until he joined the Senate in 1997. Until he retires, Roberts will continue to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee, which contains two new members for the 116th Congress: Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.