When Have Government Shutdowns Happened?

In the United States, government shutdowns have occurred in the past.

A government shutdown can occur for a variety of reasons. If congress fails to pass bills that facilitate the funding of government programs, the government can shutdown. The government can also be shutdown if the president vetoes a bill that has been adopted by congress. If there is a lack of law enactments of budget appropriations, a government shutdown is a required by the United States Constitution and the Antideficiency Act. There have been 18 funding gaps in the United States since the passage of the current budget allocation process. During Regan’s administration, the United States experienced three shutdowns that lasted for less than 48 hours. The longest funding gap occurred during Clinton’s administration in 1996 when some government operations had to stop for 21 days.

4 top shutdowns in US.

1976 Government Shutdown from September 30 – October 11

This budget gap took place during the administration of President Gerald Ford. The Congress had passed a bill for the United States Department of Health, Labour, Welfare, and Education. President Gerald Ford vetoed the bill with an argument that the spending would be out of control. The Congress overruled the decision the following day, but it took 11 days before the issue was resolved. This funding gap did not cause any furloughs.

1977 Funding Gap from September 30 – October 13

This government shutdown occurred during Carter’s administration when the United States Congress, controlled by the Democrats, maintained their firm decision on the laws prohibiting the use of Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions if the mother’s life was not at risk. The Senate was pressing to allow the utilization of the Medicaid in paying for abortion for pregnancies arising from rape or incest. The budget gap occurred due to the disagreement between the two houses regarding the funding of the Departments of Labor and HEW. The Congress was allowed enough time to resolve the dispute. During this time, there was a partial government shutdown, but there were no cases of employee furloughs reported.

1978 Government Shutdown from September 30 – October 18

This funding gap lasted for 18 days during Carter’s administration. The shutdown occurred when President Carter vetoed a public works appropriation bill and a defense bill that had been passed by the Congress. The president deemed the funding as wasteful. President Carter's veto delayed spending for the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare. The previous dispute on the use of Medicaid on abortion had also resurfaced leading to delayed expenditures.

1981 Funding Gap from November 20 – November 23

This two-day budget gap occurred during Reagan’s administration when he had vowed to veto any spending bill that violated his target on domestic budget cuts. The Democratic House of Congress had wanted a larger budget allocation for funding on defense as well as a pay increase for civil servants and the Congress. The bill passed did not meet President Reagan’s limits by $2 billion hence vetoing the bill and ordering shutdown of the federal government leading to federal employees being allowed to go on leave.


Complete effects of a shutdown are often clouded by missing data that cannot be collected when specific government offices are closed. Some effects of shutdowns are difficult to directly measure, and are thought to cause residual impacts in the months following a shutdown. Some examples include destroyed scientific studies, lack of investment, and deferred maintenance costs.

When Have Government Shutdowns Happened?

RankYearDates of ShutdownTotal Days
11976September 30 - October 1110
21977September 30 - October 1312
31977October 31 - November 98
41977November 30 - December 98
51978September 30 - October 1818
61979September 30 - October 1211
71981November 20 - November 232
81982September 30 - October 21
91983November 10 - November 143
101984September 30 - October 32
111984October 3 - October 51
121986October 16 - October 181
131987December 18 - December 201
141990October 5 - October 95
151995November 13 - November 195
161995 -1996December 15 - January 621
172013September 30 - October 1716
182018January 20-233

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