The US Capitol is seen ahead of a possible government shutdown, in Washington, DC, December 21, 2018. - The US House of Representatives adjourned on December 21 without Congress passing a spending deal, assuring a partial government shutdown at midnight as President Donald Trump and lawmakers remain at odds over border wall funding. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Every government shutdown — and how long they lasted

The partial government shutdown that started Saturday is now expected to stretch into the first weeks of January.That means it’s already on track to be one of the longest ever.

This is the 21st government shutdown since Congress adopted new budgeting procedures in 1976, according to the Congressional Research Service, and it’s also the third this year alone. For perspective, there were only three shutdowns in the 25 years before 2018.

The history of government gridlock shows a pattern: Shutdowns are usually resolved in just a few days, or they drag on for two or three weeks.

The shutdowns start when the president and Congress can’t agree on government funding — and the longer they last, the more they hurt the economy. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, services are ceased and major tourist attractions close. Standard & Poor’s estimated last year that shutdowns cost the U.S. $6.5 billion a week. The last major shutdown, in 2013, cost $24 billion – a rate of nearly $1.5 billion a day, according to S&P.

This is what all the partial or complete shutdowns of the past looked like:


January: 3 days. The first shutdown under President Trump started in January after the president faced off with Congress on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.

February: 1 day. The second shutdown this year, which came in February, was resolved in a matter of hours overnight with little interruption to government operations.


October: 16 days. Congressional disputes over budgets and funding the Affordable Care Act led to the only shutdown under President Barack Obama.


December-January: 21 days. Just a month after resolving a prior shutdown, President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran into a stalemate over a 7-year budget plan. Thus began the longest shutdown in U.S. history, which went from early December through the first week of the new year. The shutdown went on so long that museums relied on private funds to reopen, and therapists said they were getting crisis calls from out-of-work civil servants.


November: 5 days. The first of two shutdowns under Clinton started over budget disputes largely centered on Medicare and environmental regulations.


October: 3 days. President George H.W. Bush’s only shutdown.


December: 1 day. Disagreements over funding Contras militants in Nicaragua caused one of several short shutdowns in Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan, who was in office from 1981 to 1989, oversaw more shutdowns than any other president, but none lasted more than three days.


October: 1 day.


October: 1 day. The prior shutdown ended with a three-day funding extension, and so this one began immediately after that ran up.

September-October: 2 days.


November: 3 days.


December: 3 days.

October: 1 day.


November: 2 days.


September-October: 11 days. Abortion funding was the biggest budget dispute that led to one of several lengthy shutdowns during President Jimmy Carter’s single term, from 1977 to 1981.


September-October: 17 days. Carter was president during what would be the longest shutdown on record for nearly two decades.


November-December: 8 days. An 8-day shutdown that started three weeks after another 8-day shutdown ended.

October-November: 8 days.

September-October: 12 days.


September-October: 10 days. In the first year that there could have been a government shutdown, there was a government shutdown. With Congress operating under a new budgeting process, President Gerald Ford vetoed a $56 billion spending bill he deemed too expensive.

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