US shutdown ends: A history of US government impasses in the last two decades

The US government shutdown ended on Tuesday after 69-hours with President Donald Trump signing the required bill. The breakthrough came around after the Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. They relented in return for Republican assurances that the Senate will soon take up the plight of young immigrant "dreamers" and other contentious issues.

Government shutdowns are unusual but not unheard of. The government has partially shut down three times in the past quarter-century — and far more often in decades past. Shutdowns have led to furloughs of several hundred thousand federal employees, required many government activities to be stopped or curtailed and affected wide swaths of the economy.

During Jimmy Carter's administration, shutdowns happened nearly every year, averaging 11 days each. During Ronald Reagan's two terms in the 1980s, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece.

Legal opinions issued in 1980 and 1981 made shutdowns more impactful. Opinions by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti determined that failure to pass new spending bills required government functioning to shut down in whole or in part. Earlier "shutdowns" did not always entail an actual stop to government functioning and often were simply funding gaps will little real-world effect.

Here's a look at recent shutdowns, their causes and impact:

October 2013

This was a 16-day partial shutdown which came about when tea party conservatives — cheered on by outside groups — demanded that language to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law be added to a must-do funding bill. Then-Speaker John Boehner tried to avoid a shutdown by funding the government piecemeal, but the effort faltered.

File image of Capitol Hill. Reuters

File image of Capitol Hill. Reuters

The shutdown affected most government operations and resulted in the furlough of 8,50,000 employees, costing the government 6.6 million days of work and more than $2.5 billion in lost productivity, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Boehner survived the shutdown but stepped down two years later amid conflict with the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.

December 1995-January 1996

Another Republican-led shutdown, this one saw then-Speaker Newt Gingrich force a three week shutdown. Gingrich was intent on slashing the budget and forced the shutdown in a bid to coerce then-President Bill Clinton to sign onto a balanced budget agreement. Republicans were saddled with the blame, but most Americans suffered relatively minor inconveniences such as closed parks and delays in processing passport applications. The shutdown resulted in 2,80,000 workers being left idle for three weeks

The shutdown ended after Republicans caved and passed legislation to keep the government open, reported The Washington Post. In return Clinton submitted a budget plan that would balance the budget within seven years.

The fight bolstered Clinton's popularity and he sailed to re-election that November.

November 1995

This was a five-day shutdown which was triggered by Clinton vetoing an interim spending bill to block Medicare premium increases. The shutdown was resolved when Clinton, Gingrich and then-majority leader Bob Dole reached an agreement to fund the government at 75 percent levels for four weeks while budget negotiations continued, according to the Washington Post report. Clinton also agreed to the seven-year balanced budget timeline. 8,00,000 workers furloughed during the shutdown were given back pay.

However, the peace was an uneasy one and the parties eventually led the country to a longer shutdown a month later.

The Guardian reported that a historic footnote of this shutdown is that the second day of the shutdown – 15 November 1995 – was when Monica Lewinsky said she began a sexual relationship with Clinton.

With inputs from AP


Updated Date: Jan 23, 2018 15:45 PM

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