A Brief History of Government Shutdowns

There have been a series of short government shutdowns that often lasted over a weekend. Here is a listing of shutdowns, including the most significant ones.

Overview of Partial Government Shutdowns

There have been three significant government shutdowns. While no one knows how long the current shutdown that started on January 20, 2018 will last, all indications are that it will be short.

There has been a continuing resolution (CR) passed by the House of Representatives. The current shutdown is because there were not enough votes in the Senate to pass the CR that would have kept the government open for another short time.

The proposal that failed in the Senate would have funded the government through February 16. It would also have reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.

Since there has not been enough support in Congress for a federal budget for fiscal year 2018, the government has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions. But, politics having grown extremely divisive in recent years with plenty of name-calling and lack of cooperation between elected officials, this latest shutdown is over a short continuing resolution. The larger issues, and a longer budget, have been pushed off to the sidelines in favor of a series of similar short term resolutions.

The Longest Shutdowns

Most government shutdowns have lasted over a weekend and were relatively insignificant.

There have been six shutdowns in the last 40 years that lasted more than 10 days. Three of these shutdowns were the most significant.

Two occurred during the Clinton administration, including the longest shutdown. The federal government shut down for a total of 26 days. The longest shutdown the country has experienced was from December 15, 1995, to January 6, 1996. The shutdown ended with an agreement on a seven year budget plan.

The third was during the Obama administration. A stalemate between the House and Senate resulted in a 16-day shutdown which is the 2nd longest shutdown. The issue in that instance was a disagreement between Congress and the president on the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.”

Here is a list of partial government shutdowns that have occurred.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47