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Reuters/Jane Ross
The Death Valley National Park in California, closed due to the shutdown.
AND COUNTING

With 21 days, the current US shutdown now matches the longest ever

By Luiz Romero

Parts of the US government have been closed for 21 days, counting today (Jan. 11.) That makes the current shutdown the longest ever, tied with one that stretched for the same period of time during the Clinton administration.

Some key federal agencies were forced to turn off their lights starting Dec. 22, after Donald Trump failed to reach a deal with Congressional Democrats over a new spending bill. The president wants $5.7 billion to fund the construction of a border wall, but Democrats are refusing to provide the money.

That means workers at the State Department and some security agencies have been working without pay for three full weeks now. Meanwhile, staff at the National Park Service, the Transportation Department, and the Internal Revenue Service have been furloughed. Some 800,000 government workers are due to miss their paychecks today.

The last time the US government was paralyzed for this long was during the 1990s, when Democratic president Bill Clinton blocked a spending bill proposed by a Republican-controlled Congress. That time, the fight was over heavy spending cuts masterminded by then House speaker Newt Gingrich.

That funding gap cost an estimated $1.4 billion, according to the US Office of Management and Budget. Close to half of Americans blamed Congress, while about a quarter saw Clinton as responsible, polls from the time show. His popularity dropped during the shutdown, but rose after.

There’s no resolution in sight for the current shutdown. On Thursday (Jan. 10), Trump cancelled a trip to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum starting on Jan. 22. If it stretches until then, this shutdown would be the longest ever, by far.

Trump has also been hinting that he could declare a national emergency at the border with Mexico, in order to start building the border barrier without lawmakers’ approval for funding. That would dial up the shutdown-related chaos in Washington D.C. several notches.