Before the unfortunate and costly pitched battle between Washington's leaders -with 800,000 federal employees without paychecks and essential services interrupted- it is urgent that President Donald Trump and Congress find common ground to overcome an unprecedented institutional crisis.
Fuelled by partisanship, the shutdown holds hostage the federal system and thousands of its employees with a multiplied impact on the U.S. economy and society. After the Senate defeated the two bills to end the shutdown yesterday, both sides should reach a joint resolution to reopen the federal government while strengthening security at the southern border.
Yesterday's vote, defeating both the President's bill and the Democrats plan to reopen the government, closed the immediate opportunity to end this crisis that has direct effects on services and on thousands of federal employees finances, who are not receiving their paycheck in Puerto Rico.
The bill that Democrats introduced (included) a $ 600 million package to extend Nutritional Assistance Program funds for Puerto Rico, among other benefits related to the recovery of the 2017 hurricanes. It also allocated $ 25 million to the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña.
So far, the battle between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regarding security at the southern border stands firm. Democrats offered alternatives to strengthen security at the border without appropriating a penny to the wall Trump wants. The President, meanwhile, insists –without evidence- that the border wall is necessary for national security.
Meanwhile, experts warn that the partial shutdown poses an increasing risk to security. This week, aviation unions threatened to stop operations at airports which may even deepen the collapse across the country. They said that absenteeism in aviation safety areas joins the pressure and fatigue of those who are prioritizing their duty despite not having paychecks.
The partial government shutdown also causes economic losses in all sectors. The loss of credibility and respect that government institutions deserve in American democracy is also really serious.
It is rather unusual to see the United States on the verge of such chaos because the political leadership has been unable to resolve their disputes through negotiation. Both sides reject any offer made by the opponent, interpreting it as a triumph of one over the other in the short term, despite sad consequences for all the country. Hence the importance of mediation for both sides. This moment calls for all sectors in federal political spheres to propose themselves as mediators amid this crisis.
The exit to such a crossroads can only be found through dialogue and negotiation, that should also apply to the wrong approach to the immigration issue that created it. The United States must recover its ability to listen with respect, accept differences and move above themin pursuit of common good.
Meanwhile, we extend a fraternal hand to federal workers on the island, who are about to lose their second paycheck if this unfortunate shutdown continues.