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January 22, 2018

Government shutdown: A teacher’s guide

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Update: The three-day government shutdown ended after Congress voted to reopen it on Monday. Read The shutdown is over, but Congress still has a long to-do list to find out more. 

  1. On Friday at midnight, the U.S. government officially shutdown after Congress and the Trump Administration failed to reach a deal that would keep it open.
  2. As the shutdown enters its third day on Monday, hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed, or put on involuntary temporary leave. Furloughed workers include most of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), several thousand employees at the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and,  to name just a few. The post office, military and some national parks will remain in operation.
    • In 2013 when the government last shutdown, approximately 800,000 of the 2.1 million civilian federal employees were furloughed.
  3. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the program that protects undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, remains at the heart of the debate. Democrats say they will not vote for a spending bill until they reach an agreement that provides a DACA fix. Republicans says they won’t agree to a DACA fix unless the Democrats yield on additional border security, including money for President Trump’s border wall.
  4. The Senate is scheduled to vote at noon Monday on a bill to reopen the government and fund it for three weeks, though the plan may not have enough Democrats to pass.
Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: What is the role of government in a democracy?
  2. What compromises need to be made for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to end the government shutdown?
  3. What do you know about DACA? Why is it part of negotiations in the government’s spending bill?
  4. What role does the Trump Administration play in the government shutdown? How do President Trump’s actions pose challenges for both parties in Congress?
  5. What services does the U.S. government provide?
  6. How does the government shutdown affect you or someone you know? How could you find out if you are not sure?
Extension activities:
  1. What is CHIP? Another key measure up for debate in the spending bill is CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), a government program which provides health care for 1.7 million children in the U.S.
    • “A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in November found that a whopping 62 percent of people believe that reauthorizing CHIP funding should be the top legislative priority for President Donald Trump and Congress in the coming months, beating out stabilizing Obamacare, tax reform or creating new immigration policies,” according to NBC News. Read more about CHIP here and discuss the following question with your students: How did CHIP, heralded for years as an example of bipartisanship at its best, turn into a political football?
  2. You may want to check out these NewsHour videos on the government shutdown:
  3. How do we know that our government is fulfilling its duties to us, the public? How do we decide what those duties are? As efforts to end the government shutdown take place, students will have the power to re-prioritize how money is spent using the interactive tool Balancing Act. What changes will they make?
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