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 16 of the past 44 years . 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 16, 2019 @ 9:59 am ET, still ongoing, 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.

U.S. Federal Government Funding Gaps

SequenceStartEndDuration (Hours)PresidentSenateHouseLink
22Dec 22 '18
12:00 AM
?602.63Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R)
21Feb 9 '18
12:00 AM
Feb 9 '18
9:00 AM
9.00Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R)
20Jan 20 '18
12:00 AM
Jan 22 '18
11:05 PM
71.08Donald Trump (R)51-49 (R)236-197 (R) 
19Oct 1 '13
12:00 AM
Oct 17 '13
12:30 AM
384.50Barack Obama (D)54-46 (D)232-200 (R)
18Dec 16 '95
12:00 AM
Jan 6 '96
12:05 AM
504.08Bill Clinton (D)53-47 (R)235-198 (R) 
17Nov 13 '95
12:00 AM
Nov 19 '95
6:40 PM
162.67Bill Clinton (D)53-47 (R)233-199 (R) 
16Oct 5 '90
12:00 AM
Oct 10 '90
1:30 AM
121.50George H. W. Bush (R)55-45 (D)258-176 (D) 
15Dec 18 '87
12:00 AM
Dec 20 '87
8:00 PM
68.00Ronald Reagan (R)54-46 (D)258-177 (D) 
14Oct 16 '86
12:00 AM
Oct 19 '86
1:30 AM
73.50Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)253-182 (D) 
13Oct 3 '84
12:00 AM
Oct 5 '84
5:00 PM
65.00Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)270-165 (D) 
12Sep 30 '84
12:00 AM
Oct 3 '84
12:00 PM
84.00Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)270-165 (D)
11Nov 10 '83
12:00 AM
Nov 14 '83
12:00 AM
96.00Ronald Reagan (R)55-45 (R)271-164 (D)
10Dec 17 '82
12:00 AM
Dec 21 '82
12:10 AM
96.17Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) 
9Sep 30 '82
12:00 AM
Oct 2 '82
10:00 PM
70.00Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) 
8Nov 20 '81
12:00 AM
Nov 23 '81
6:38 PM
90.63Ronald Reagan (R)53-47 (R)244-191 (D) 
7May 1 '80
12:00 AM
May 1 '80
6:00 PM
18.00Jimmy Carter (D)58-42 (D)277-158 (D)
6Sep 30 '79
12:00 AM
Oct 12 '79
8:00 PM
308.00Jimmy Carter (D)58-42 (D)277-158 (D) 
5Sep 30 '78
12:00 AM
Oct 18 '78
12:00 AM
432.00Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
4Nov 30 '77
12:00 AM
Dec 9 '77
12:00 AM
216.00Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D) 
3Oct 31 '77
12:00 AM
Nov 9 '77
12:00 AM
216.00Jimmy Carter (D)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
2Sep 30 '77
12:00 AM
Oct 13 '77
12:00 AM
312.00Gerald Ford (R)59-41 (D)292-143 (D)
1Sep 30 '76
12:00 AM
Oct 11 '76
11:59 PM
288.00Gerald Ford (R)62-38 (D)291-144 (D) 

 

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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