Pain may be coming from shutdown — except for Trump and Democrats

Pain is coming because of the government shutdown — except perhaps for many of the politicians behind it.

Both sides in the shutdown have dug in hard, suggesting they are feeling little pressure to end the standoff.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE made a surprise appearance at the White House press briefing Thursday with border security officials, underlining his position that the partial government shutdown will not end unless Democrats agree to provide money for his wall on the Mexican border.

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats approved legislation to reopen the government that did not include funds for the wall, signaling their unwillingness to move.

Neither side is showing that they feel much pressure to end the fight, though remarks to The Hill by Republican Senator Corey Gardner (Colorado) could foreshadow a retreat by Republicans.

Gardner, who is up for reelection in a state Trump lost in 2016, called on the Congress to pass legislation to reopen the government without a border deal.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” he said. 

But Gardner was the exception on Thursday as Democrats took control of the House and a larger GOP majority arrived in the Senate.

There are a variety of reasons that could explain why neither side is feeling any pressure.

When the shutdown began two weeks ago, it did not have the same immediate impact as previous funding lapses — in part because about 75 percent of the government is open thanks to Congress’s approve of five spending bills, including those covering some of the largest federal agencies.

The White House provided guidance to keep national parks open, and it ensured that federal workers received paychecks due starting on Dec. 28. Because the shutdown began on the last day of a federal pay period, workers still got the vast majority of their pay.

A slew of agencies and offices also found workarounds to fund their activities in the first days of the shutdown, scrimping together previously unused funds and relying on alternative sources of revenue, such as fees and state-level funding.

And during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, much of the country was not focused on news reports

ADVERTISEMENT

But two weeks in, those measures are running out. 

The Smithsonian museums and national zoo, open through the holidays, shuttered this week. National parks began to close their campgrounds as trash and toilets overflowed, and search and rescue incidents spread emergency staff thin. The e-verify system employers use to check if new hires have legal status to work went down.

The 800,000 federal worker who are furloughed or working without pay are inching closer to missing a full paycheck. The Office of Personnel Management offered them advice on how to ask creditors for extensions while their pay was suspended, including a suggestion that they barter chores. 

A number of federal workers can likely ride out the shutdown and are likely to receive pay when it ends.

Contractors, including many people who work cleaning or security jobs, have it worse. If they lose shifts, they will not be paid back for the lost work.

“The Trump shutdown is creating long-term damage to federal agencies and harming the dedicated federal employees and their families who are going without pay,” said the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a union that represents workers in agencies such as NASA.

Trump has argued that those losing work are Democrats, suggesting they have a reason to budge in the standoff to help their base.

Yet the political Democratic base is vehemently opposed to the wall and does not way to see its party leaders bend to Trump.

The president, for his part, walked into the shutdown after coming under criticism from conservative pundits who worried he would cave on his signature issue. Many of those voices are rallying Trump on.

Congressional Republicans, who might have the most to lose, are so far largely falling in line behind Trump, though Gardner’s comments could be a warning signal.

It’s possible the tides will change as the shutdown goes on and more people are affected.

A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released last week found that 58 percent of voters wanted Trump to withdraw his demand for the border funding in the shutdown fight, while 42 percent said he “should not give in.”

But surveys show that catering to their bases could be a winning strategy for both sides.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll early in December found that 67 percent of Republicans though Trump should not compromise on the wall.

Those partisan lines given the two sides few incentives to compromise.

Another uncertainty is the economy and the stock market, which Trump watches closely.

The markets endured another difficult day on Thursday as traders weighed news of lower revenue than expected for Apple.

The shutdown is not having a major effect on the economy, but it is likely to grow in time and the uncertainty it underlines about Washington is another factor.

“In general, government shutdowns impose costs through three channels: federal budgetary costs, forgone services, and, last and most amorphous, economic disruption,” said Gordon Gray, Director of Fiscal Policy at the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank.

While the effects are difficult to measure, Gray pointed to an Office of Management and Budget study on the economic effects of a 16-day shutdown in 2013.

“The 2013 OMB study provided an estimate that the 2013 shutdown pared back one quarter’s GDP growth by 0.2-0.6 percentage points, amounting to $2 billion to $6 billion in forgone GDP,” he said.