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History: Federal Government Funding Gaps

So what is a Federal Government shutdown? Well, for starters, it’s not a shutdown.

It’s the result of the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act. Among other things, it required that Congress must authorize funding for the federal government. This is something, in the 44 years since it has passed, it has failed to do on time in 36.4% of the budget cycles, or [su_tooltip style=”dark” position=”top” shadow=”no” rounded=”yes” size=”2″ title=”” content=”The shutdowns of Jan/Feb 2018 were related to the 2017 budget cycle, and are counted as such.” behavior=”hover” close=”no” class=”tooltip-hover”]16 of the past 44 years [icon name=”info-circle”][/su_tooltip]. With continuing resolutions in the same cycle, it has happened 22 times.

This did not always mean a shutdown. The first six times this happened, it was business as usual. A series of opinions issued by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti in 1980 and 1981 established that, if a funding gap exists, the agency or agencies impacted must shut down. This, in turn, was his interpretation of the 1884 Antideficiency Act.

The first time any agency was shut down as a result was during the 18-hour shutdown of the FTC on May 1, 1980.

Funding gaps result in shutdowns only when those agencies are without Congressionally-approved funding. Essential services, like the Department of Defense, are largely unaffected.

Of note:

  • The longest shutdown: December 22, 2018 – January 25, 2019 at 9 pm ET, under Donald Trump. [Update: Added January 12, 2018]
  • The longest shutdown: December 16, 1995 – January 6, 1996 under Bill Clinton.
  • The shortest shutdown: February 9, 2018 for about nine hours, under Donald Trump.
  • The only two presidents who had an actual partial or full shutdown while the same party controlled the executive and legislative branches? Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump.

SequenceStartEndDuration (Hours)PresidentSenateHouseLink
22Dec 22 '18
12:00 AM
Jan 25 '19
9:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="35 days, 21 hours, 0 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]825.00[/su_tooltip]Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R)
21Feb 9 '18
12:00 AM
Feb 9 '18
9:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="2 days, 23 hours, 5 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]9.00[/su_tooltip]Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R)
20Jan 20 '18
12:00 AM
Jan 22 '18
11:05 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="2 days, 23 hours, 5 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]71.08[/su_tooltip]Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R) [icon name="external-link"]
19Oct 1 '13
12:00 AM
Oct 17 '13
12:30 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="16 days, 0 hours, 30 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]384.50[/su_tooltip]Barack Obama (D)54-46 (D)232-200 (R)
18Dec 16 '95
12:00 AM
Jan 6 '96
12:05 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="21 days, 0 hours, 5 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]504.08[/su_tooltip]Bill Clinton (D)53-47 (R)235-198 (R) [icon name="external-link"]
17Nov 13 '95
12:00 AM
Nov 19 '95
6:40 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="6 days, 18 hours, 40 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]162.67[/su_tooltip]Bill Clinton (D)53-47 (R)233-199 (R) [icon name="external-link"]
16Oct 5 '90
12:00 AM
Oct 10 '90
1:30 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="5 days, 1 hour, 30 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]121.50[/su_tooltip]George H. W. Bush (R)55-45 (D)258-176 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
15Dec 18 '87
12:00 AM
Dec 20 '87
8:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="2 days, 20 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]68.00[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)54-46 (D)258-177 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
14Oct 16 '86
12:00 AM
Oct 19 '86
1:30 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="3 days, 1 hour, 30 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]73.50[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)253-182 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
13Oct 3 '84
12:00 AM
Oct 5 '84
5:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="2 days, 17 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]65.00[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)270-165 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
12Sep 30 '84
12:00 AM
Oct 3 '84
12:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="3 days, 12 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]84.00[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)270-165 (D)
11Nov 10 '83
12:00 AM
Nov 14 '83
12:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="4 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]96.00[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)271-164 (D)
10Dec 17 '82
12:00 AM
Dec 21 '82
12:10 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="4 days, 0 hours, 10 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]96.17[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
9Sep 30 '82
12:00 AM
Oct 2 '82
10:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="2 days, 22 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]70.00[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
8Nov 20 '81
12:00 AM
Nov 23 '81
6:38 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="3 days, 18 hours, 38 minutes" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]90.63[/su_tooltip]Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
7May 1 '80
12:00 AM
May 1 '80
6:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="18 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]18.00[/su_tooltip]Jimmy Carter (D)58-42 (D)277-158 (D)
6Sep 30 '79
12:00 AM
Oct 12 '79
8:00 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="12 days, 20 hours" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]308.00[/su_tooltip]Jimmy Carter (D)58-42 (D)277-158 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
5Sep 30 '78
12:00 AM
Oct 18 '78
12:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="18 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]432.00[/su_tooltip]Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
4Nov 30 '77
12:00 AM
Dec 9 '77
12:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="9 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]216.00[/su_tooltip]Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D) [icon name="external-link"]
3Oct 31 '77
12:00 AM
Nov 9 '77
12:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="9 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]216.00[/su_tooltip]Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
2Sep 30 '77
12:00 AM
Oct 13 '77
12:00 AM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="13 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]312.00[/su_tooltip]Gerald Ford (R)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
1Sep 30 '76
12:00 AM
Oct 11 '76
11:59 PM
[su_tooltip style="dark" position="top" shadow="no" rounded="yes" size="2" title="" content="12 days" behavior="hover" close="no" class="tooltip-hover"]288.00[/su_tooltip]Gerald Ford (R)62-38 (D)291-144 (D) [icon name="external-link"]

 

Editor’s Note: We incorrectly initially listed the 1995 shutdown as beginning on December 5th, 1995. It began December 16, 1995. We regret this error.

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