News / USA

History of US Government Shutdowns

A sign is seen on the gate of a National Park Service site is closed in the Santa Monica mountains, Agoura Hills, California, October 1, 2013.
A sign is seen on the gate of a National Park Service site is closed in the Santa Monica mountains, Agoura Hills, California, October 1, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Alex Villarreal
— The U.S. government shut down Tuesday after the two houses of Congress failed to agree on a spending bill to keep the government running beyond October 1.
 
During a government shutdown, federal workers not considered "essential" are temporarily laid off, or furloughed, and many government programs are halted.  "Essential" employees are defined as those performing duties vital to national defense, public health and safety, or other critical operations.
 
Past shutdowns
 
This is not the first time lawmakers' lack of agreement has forced the government into bare-minimum operating conditions.
 
This is the 12th shutdown since 1981.  The last and longest shutdown occurred from December 1995 into January 1996 under the Bill Clinton administration and spanned 21 days.  It came just a month after a six-day shutdown in November 1995.
 
Before the 1980s, if Congress could not pass a budget, federal employees continued operating as usual, even while waiting for a spending bill to pass.  Once it did, that bill would retroactively fund the spending gap.
 
But in 1980, Jimmy Carter's last year as president, then-attorney general Benjamin Civiletti issued a legal opinion saying government work cannot continue until Congress agrees to fund it.  Civiletti later clarified the law to mean only "essential" government services could continue without a spending bill.
 
During Ronald Reagan's presidency from 1981 to 1989, shutdowns were relatively common, but none of them lasted more than three days, and many occurred over a weekend.
 
Shutdown costs
 
The longer a shutdown lasts, the more it costs.
 
The Office of Management and Budget estimated the cost of the two government shutdowns of 1995 to 1996 at more than $1.4 billion.  The Pew Research Center says that would be equal to $2.1 billion now, when adjusted for inflation.
 
And what about the costs to Americans' confidence in their government?  If history is any indication, research organization Gallup says that may not pose much of a problem for President Barack Obama or Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
 
Gallup says the 1995-1996 shutdown "did little to impact" Americans' views of President Clinton or Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in the months after the closure began.  Approval ratings for Congress as a whole, the U.S. economy and the country in general also were spared.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid