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The Government Shutdown in American History

Federal government shutdown

The partial government shutdown that went into effect on December 22, 2018 became the longest in U.S. history when it entered its 22nd day on January 12. In the days leading up to the shutdown, Congress had agreed on a budget resolution, but it was rejected by President Donald Trump because it didn't include $5.7 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. A subsequent resolution that included border wall funding was rejected by the Senate.

Congress's responsibility to approve federal spending goals stems from the Appropriations Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the clause does not specifically state that the president must actually spend appropriated funds. In 1974, Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which established the House Budget Committee and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to create a formal budget process in the legislative branch. Since that time, the federal government has gone through 21 shutdowns or funding gaps. Of those, President Jimmy Carter presided over the most, with five government shutdowns occurring during his term in office.

Congress's "power of the purse" was intended to be a check on the power of the president. However, legislators often disagree on how best to spend the government's money, which raises the possibility of a shutdown if a budget cannot be agreed upon before the previous year's funding expires. There have been many reasons for this disagreement throughout U.S. history. A closer look back at past shutdowns can shed light on this issue today.

Use the Instruction and Background Resources in the drop-down menu on the left to guide students' library or classroom research into the causes and effects of a government shutdown. The Background Essay analyzes the causes and consequences of shutdowns of the past and recent history. The Facts & Figures and Government Documents help illustrate the public response to shutdowns, as well as the larger social impacts.


MLA Citation

"The Government Shutdown in American History." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2125456. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2125456

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