It is a political idiosyncrasy that most political systems avoid: the state, as if suffering a stroke, operating at only partial capacity, incapable of paying certain employees and incapable of fronting certain services. And so it is in the United States, which is facing the longest shut down in its history after the record set under the Clinton Presidency – 21 days in 1995 – was passed.
Prior to the 1970s, the administration of the day could generally expend moneys without prior congressional approval. Then came a shifting of power from the executive to Congress in a 1974 law, reorganising the budget process. Scrapping duly followed between the arms of government, and the legal opinion of United States attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti provided the kiss of dysfunction to politics in Washington. Agencies could not, he surmised with high priest severity, continue to operate in the absence of congressional appropriations, bar those engaged in certain vital tasks, such as protecting life and property.
The reasons for the current squabble remain less significant than the process and consequences. President Donald Trump wants his wall on the Mexico border; the Democrats remain cool to aspects of the idea. The result has been a standoff and the drying up of pay checks to certain federal employees.
The term “shutdown” is deceptive. The state itself, for the most part, is still functioning, hence that qualifying word “partial”. The…