WASHINGTON ― One year ago, Donald Trump stood at the U.S. Capitol and took his place as the nation’s 45th president. He promised to be a man of action, taking charge of a government for the people and away from the establishment.
“We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done,” Trump promised.
“We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action ― constantly complaining but never doing anything about it,” he added. “The time for empty talk is over.”
But exactly a year later, on the anniversary of Trump’s big day, the federal government is shut down.
Congress was unable to come to an agreement to keep the government funded by midnight Friday, resulting in the first shutdown since 2013.
Trump and his GOP allies tried to pin the blame on Democrats, even attempting to give it the name #SchumerShutdown.
The fact remains, however, that Republicans control the White House, the House and the Senate. For years, they blamed Democrats for obstruction and told voters to give them full control of the executive and legislative branches so that they could finally govern.
But Republicans were unable to do the most basic task Friday night: Keep the federal government’s lights on.
In the most recent government shutdowns, the presidency and Congress have been controlled by different parties ― and they’ve pointed fingers at each other over who gets the blame. (The public has generally faulted the GOP-led Congress.)
But in this case, Republicans will be trying to argue that Democrats ― who control nothing because they’re in the minority ― are the ones at fault.
It’s clear, however, that the Trump administration is nervous about the fallout. The Department of the Interior was figuring out a way to keep national parks open during the shutdown, recognizing during the 2013 shutdown that the shuttered entrances and frustrated tourists became potent symbols of what Congress’ dysfunction had wrought.
One of Trump’s major selling points during the campaign was his ability to make deals. He could sit down with people and get them to agree to things that no one else could.
But Trump is part of the reason that Washington has found itself in such a mess this week.
Trump, after all, was the one who removed the protections for the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, telling Congress that lawmakers had to instead put in place a measure to protect them.
Democrats, at various times, have believed that Trump would support a deal to protect the Dreamers, in exchange for certain border security measures. But that optimism was blown up last week when Trump reportedly denigrated immigrants from Haiti and African nations, saying they were “shithole” countries and he’d rather see people come from Norway, a very white European nation.
Trump received widespread criticism for his remarks, and the next day he announced there would be no bipartisan deal.
The Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate ― along with the Republicans in the House and the Republicans in the Senate ― were unable to come to an agreement by the funding deadline Friday night, and now the federal government is shut down.
The last time the federal government shut down, in 2013, about 800,000 workers were furloughed without pay, and this time, a similar number is expected to be affected.
And Trump, despite his rhetoric in his inaugural address, is ill-prepared to deal with the shutdown. Federal employees said Friday that they had barely received any guidance about what to do in the event of a shutdown ― a big difference from what happened in 2013, under President Barack Obama. Trump still has failed to nominate people for a sizable number of important positions in the government, and many of the people in his administration don’t have experience dealing with past crises.
In his book The Art of the Deal, Trump boasts, “Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
But the first year of his presidency has exposed the hollowness of that rhetoric, showing it takes more than simply talking big to run the government.
Perhaps instead, Trump’s tweet from January 2013 held more insight about his governance: “Just shows that you can have all the cards and lose if you don’t know what you’re doing.”