Editor's Note: After the Jan. 25, 2019, issue went to press, President Donald Trump announced that he would sign a bill to reopen closed agencies of the federal government through Feb. 15.
The ongoing, record-long partial shutdown of the federal government, like so much else these days, is so defined by partisanship that to soberly assess the merits of the two sides seems an exercise in futility.
But if nothing else, this episode serves as an interesting comparison with previous disputes in Washington, D.C.
What distinguishes the current tussle is how little money, relatively speaking, is involved — the $5.7 billion that President Trump wants to spend to build a section of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 16-day shutdown in October 2013, by contrast, was spurred by a disagreement about Obamacare — a matter with potential implications measured in trillions of dollars.
The 21-day shutdown that spanned December 1995 and January 1996 (until this month it was the longest in history) was a bit more complicated but among the bones of contention were issues, including Medicare, with considerably more than $5.7 billion at stake.
The current shutdown was never about money, of course. Anyone who still believed otherwise must surely have come to their senses Wednesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would bar Trump from using the House chamber to deliver a State of the Union address until the government reopens.
At this point it might well be that Trump or Pelosi could gain as much from ending the shutdown as from prolonging it.
Surely many Americans, regardless of their feelings about the wall, understand that our nation’s future doesn’t hinge on a $5.7 billion obstacle, whether it’s built or it isn’t. Moreover, they recognize that we can reopen the government now, and continue the debate about the wall later.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor