On Friday, America’s leaders finally came to their senses and reached an agreement to end the longest federal government shutdown in the nation’s history. The outcome leaves some big matters unsettled and gives neither the White House nor House Democrats what they want most. But most Americans will see it as a huge relief.
The pressure for a resolution had gone from powerful to unbearable. The spectacle of valuable federal employees threatened with missing meals or being evicted from their homes was hard for Americans to watch. The possibility that the lost paychecks could tip a strong economy into recession was scary.
Polls indicated that most people blamed President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans for the partial government shutdown, which encouraged them to find a way out. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to worry that if the stalemate continued, a disgusted electorate might eventually turn on Democrats.
Apparently the last straw came when the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily restricted flights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport because of “a slight uptick in sick leave at two facilities.” The outlook was for delays to grow more widespread and disruptive if the shutdown continued. And no one wanted to risk an airline accident caused by short staffing in the control towers.
Trump had to give up any new funding for his long-promised border wall. But Democrats, who might have used the impasse to win lasting protection of undocumented immigrants brought here as children, will have to explore other avenues to that end.
There is no guarantee that this deal will mean a return to functional government. It’s a short-term agreement that keeps the lights on for three weeks while negotiations continue. Trump vowed that if he didn’t get money for the wall, “the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”
Neither is appealing. Trump shouldn’t push the limits of his legal authority to circumvent Congress — and public opinion — on the wall. Instead, he should find out what it would take for Democrats to give him the $5.7 billion he demands. Democrats, in turn, shouldn’t squander this opportunity to help the young immigrants known as Dreamers and asylum-seekers.
The shutdown was a self-inflicted injury that we hope our leaders will not repeat in three weeks — or ever. It’s easy to envision a win-win deal. Now is the time for our leaders to get serious about forging it.