Five Facts: Government Shutdowns

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to avert a partial government shutdown that would interrupt services as the height of the holiday season approaches. The country’s short-term spending plan expires Friday just before midnight, which gives Congress fewer than 72 hours to strike a deal. This deal should have been secured on September 30, when the federal fiscal year ended.

While six federal departments have already had their funding approved, others including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, State, and Housing and Urban Development will be impacted.

Government shutdowns are disruptive, but they are not rare. Here are five facts on past government shutdowns and their impact:

1. The most costly government shutdown in history happened during the Obama administration. According to the financial ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, the government shutdown between Oct. 1, 2013 and Oct. 17, 2013 cost the U.S. economy $24 billion. Moreover, estimates show that the shutdown took 0.3 percentage points off the nation’s GDP during that quarter. During the shutdown, roughly 850,000 federal employees could not go to work and 6.6 million work days were lost, CNN Business reported.

2. The longest government shutdown in history happened during the Clinton administration. From Dec. 5, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996, the federal government shut down for 21 days. As USA Today reports, this three-week shutdown came less than a month after the previous shutdown, which lasted from Nov. 13, 1995 to Nov. 19, 1995. However, the second, longer shutdown furloughed roughly 280,000 workers, while the first, shorter shutdown furloughed approximately 800,000 workers.

3. The shortest government shutdown in history happened during the Trump administration. On Feb. 9, 2018, the federal government shut down for fewer than six hours between 12:01 AM and roughly 5:30 AM, according to USA Today. This most recent government shutdown was the 20th since the 1970s. Most of these shutdowns have lasted less than a week.

4. To date, more government shutdowns have happened under Republican presidents than Democratic presidents. Of the 20 government shutdowns since the 1970s, eight have been when Democrats were in the White House and 12 have been when Republicans were in the White House. President Ronald Reagan saw the most government shutdowns during his tenure (eight), followed by President Jimmy Carter (five).

5. While many Americans consider government shutdowns to be inconveniences, they also have more serious consequences. Shutdowns can have particularly harsh impacts on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PBS reported that during the 2013 shutdown the FDA stopped nearly all of its food safety testing. During that same period, roughly 200 patients a week, many of whom had cancer, were turned away from NIH clinical trials.

No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.

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