Government Shutdowns: Review of Past Shutdowns

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In US government history, the government has faced 20 funding gaps since 1976, 10 of which have resulted in a partial or total shutdown of the US government, according to the History, Art & Archives of the US House of Representatives.

With Democrats and Republicans debating the next government funding bill and a possible hike in the US national debt limit, the next government shutdown would have started on October 1, 2021 if no agreement was reached.

Could this happen in the future? A look back at the past can reveal the answer.

How does the US government finance itself?

According to the archives, spending bills must go through both chambers of Congress (House and Senate) and be signed by the President to become law. These bills are passed annually by Congress and are expected to come into effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year, October 1st.

What if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill to fund government?

If regular budget laws are not passed, Congress has the option of passing a rolling resolution, a temporary fix, to give members of Congress more time to pass a draft budget. If the continuation resolution expires without Congress approving new funds, parts of the federal government may experience a funding failure that leads to a closure.

How many times has the government closed?

According to the archives, the US government had 20 funding shortfalls since fiscal year 1977 (September 30, 1976). Of these, 10 resulted in government closures, which were first reported in the 1983 financial year and the last in the 2019 financial year.

Below is a list of all 20 funding gaps, including the 10 that led to government closures and the resolutions that restored funding:

Tax
year
date
financing
Completed
Duration of
Funding gap
(in days)
date
financing
Restored
Switch off
procedure
Followed
legislation
Restore
financing
1977September 30, 197610October 11, 1976noHJ Res. 1105
Bar. L. 94-473
90 Stat. 2065
1978September 30, 197712thOctober 13, 1977noHJ Res. 626
Bar. L. 95-130
91 Statistics 1153
1978October 31, 19778thNovember 9, 1977noHJ Res. 643
Bar. L. 95-165
91 Statistics 1323
1978November 30, 19778thDecember 9, 1977noHJ Res 662
Bar. L. 95-205
91 Statistics 1460
1979September 30, 197817thOctober 18, 1978noHR 12929
Bar. L. 95-480
92 Statistics 1567

HR 12931
Bar. L. 95-481
92 Statistics 1591

HJ Res. 1139
Bar. L. 95-482
92 Statistics 1603

1980September 30, 197911thOctober 12, 1979noHJ Res. 412
Bar. L. 96-86
93 Statistics 656
1982November 20, 19812November 23, 1981Yes sirHJ Res. 368
Bar. L. 97-85
95 Stat. 1098
1983September 30, 19821October 2, 1982Yes sirHJ Res. 599
Bar. L. 97-276
96 1186
198317th December 19823December 21, 1982noHJ Res. 631
Bar. L. 97-377
96 1830
1984November 10, 19833November 14, 1983noHJ Res 413
Bar. L. 98-151
97 Statistics 964
1985September 30, 198423rd October 1984noHJ Res. 653
Bar. L.98-441
98 Statistics 1699
19853rd October 198415th October 1984Yes sirHJ Res. 656
Bar. L.98-453
98 Statistics 1731
1987October 16, 19861October 18, 1986Yes sirHJ Res. 738

Bar. L. 99-500
100 stat. 1783

Bar. L. 99-591
100 stat. 3341

1988December 18, 19871December 20, 1987noHJ Res. 431
Bar. L. 100-197
101 1314
19915th October 19903October 9, 1990Yes sirHJ Res. 666
Bar. L. 101-412
104 Statistics 894
1996November 13, 19955November 19, 1995Yes sirHR 2020
Bar. L. 104-52
109 Statistics 468

HR 2492
Bar. L. 104-53
109 Statistics 514

HJ Res. 123
Bar. L. 104-54
109 Statistics 540

1996December 15, 199521January 6, 1996Yes sirHJ Res. 134
Bar. L. 104-94
110 Statistics 25
2014September 30th, 20131617th October 2013Yes sirHR 2775
Bar. L. 113-46
127 Statistics 558
201819th January 2018222nd January 2018Yes sirHR 195
Bar. L. 115-120
132 Statistics 28
2019December 21, 201834January 25, 2019Yes sirHJ Res. 28
Bar. L. 116-5
133 Statistics 10
Funding gaps since 1977
Courtesy: History, Art, and Archives of the United States House of Representatives.

How could fiscal 2022 have the next U.S. government shutdown?

On Monday, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to fund the government at current levels and suspend the debt ceiling. Republicans and Democrats are at odds over a plan to raise the debt ceiling, with Republicans saying they will not support a funding bill that includes the proposed increase.

Without a funding bill, the US government would have closed from midnight on Thursday, October 1st. If Congress has not been able to raise the national debt ceiling, The Hill says the US is well on its way to bankrupt the national debt for the first time in the nation’s history.

What would happen if the US defaulted on its national debt?

Millions of Americans would be affected if the US government couldn’t pay their bills, according to CBS News. Social security payments would not run out; US troops and federal civilian employees would not be paid. Veterans could forfeit compensation or pension payments. And millions of Americans in need of food aid would see the services stop.

CBS News also says financial services company Moody’s Analytics said a default would be a “catastrophic blow” to economic recovery. His analysisS. showed that if lawmakers were at odds after the debt ceiling was exceeded, nearly 6 million jobs would be lost, the unemployment rate would rise again to nearly 9%, and stock prices would fall nearly a third, making household wealth worth 15 trillion US dollars would annihilate.

Will the US government shut down?

Short answer, no.

According to the United States Senate, HR 5305, an ongoing government funding resolution, passed 65-35 votes in favor of the resolution in the Senate, above the 60-vote threshold required for approval. According to the bill, federal agencies will remain funded until December 3.

According to CBS News, the House of Representatives passed the rolling resolution by 254 votes to 175 for the resolution.

According to The Hill, President Biden signed a makeshift law on Thursday that will keep government funding in place until early December and officially prevent the government from closing for the time being.

With the government shutdown on hold until December 3, Congress must now respond to the looming debt ceiling situation.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the United States will default on October 18 for the first time in the nation’s history.

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