This is the third blog post THIS YEAR in which I have written about the aversion of a government (or department) shutdown in the US!
In this instance, a last minute deal was brokered hours before the midnight deadline, first passing the Senate, then the House before being signed by Obama. This will fund the government through until December 11th, when all of this may begin again and another shutdown will be possible.
For students, this is key for a number of reasons. Firstly, the measure only passed in the House because of full Democrat support. Republicans, who control the House, were still deeply divided over the issue with 91 of them voting in favour and 151 of them voting against the measure (which passed 257-151). All of the ‘no’ votes were Republican and all Democrats voted ‘yes’ – this could be a really good example of the importance of parties in the House and the failure of bipartisanship as the Founding Fathers intended.
It could also be useful when assessing the exclusive powers of each House in Congress. The HoR has the power of the purse (although the Senate does have to agree to spending measures too) but in this case the Senate was so anxious to avoid a shutdown that they passed the bill first under the leadership of Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell (the 45 second video in this article is worth watching to hear him speak). This could be used as an example of where the exclusive powers of the houses are not so clear cut and how even across the two Houses there seems to be animosity within the Republican Party.
Finally, one of the things causing great annoyance for those disaffected Republicans is their inability to force concessions from the Obama administration – in this case on Planned Parenthood. This is a good example of checks and balances at work – whether you think it is effective or ineffective however would be determined by the line of argument you take in your essays. It could be argued that in a situation where the people have voted for a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, this was inevitable and what the Founding Fathers intended. It could also be argued the Founding Fathers did this in order to avoid the tyranny of one branch and encourage bipartisanship which is clearly lacking here.
It would seem that, for a President whose days are numbered, Obama is certainly not yet a lame duck, exercising considerable power in reaction to Republicans in Congress. That said, I can’t remember a year with so many potential shutdowns…watch this space for the new December 11th deadline…