A look back at every government shutdown in U.S. history


With the countdown clock ticking, a divided Congress is racing to reach a compromise in order to prevent a government shutdown by midnight Friday.

Republicans control the Senate but they still need 60 votes in order to break a filibuster.

“When you only have 51 votes in the Senate, then you have to have Democrat support in order to keep the government — to fund the government,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters during a White House press briefing Friday.

The White House is preparing for what some officials are dubbing a “Schumer shutdown,” Mulvaney said.

If that happens, it would be the first shutdown the government has seen in almost five years.

The government has shut down a total of 18 times since Congress introduced the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which established the federal budget process in 1976. Half of those shutdowns occurred over a weekend.

“I call them ‘fake shutdowns,'” Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that educates the public on fiscal policy issues – told Fox News. “Most shutdowns occur over the course of a weekend. We’re talking days or weeks – not months.”

But there has been a handful of lengthy government shutdowns in the history of the U.S. According to data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), six shutdowns in the past four decades lasted more than 10 days.

However, Goldwein says, only three of those shutdowns are significant.

Two occurred during the Clinton administration in the winter of 1995 to 1996 when former President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress were at odds and shut the government down for a total of 26 days, Goldwein said.

The third occurred during the Obama administration in 2013. A stalemate between the House and Senate led to a 16-day hiatus.

Here’s a look back at every government shutdown in the history of the U.S.

President Gerald Ford

When: Thursday, Sept. 30 to Monday, Oct. 10, 1976

Duration: 10 days

The first partial shutdown occurred under Gerald Ford’s presidency when Ford vetoed a $56 billion spending bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare, according to a 1976 report from The New York Times.

This was the year the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act became law, allowing Congress to take an extension, known as a continuing resolution (CR).

President Jimmy Carter

When: Friday, Sept. 30 to Thursday, Oct. 13, 1977

Duration: 12 days

When: Monday, Oct. 31 to Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1977

Duration: 8 days

When: Wednesday, Nov. 30 to Friday, Dec. 9, 1977

Duration: 8 days

There were three shutdowns, referred to as the “abortion shutdowns,” in the late 1970s under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The Democratic party may have dominated both the House and the Senate, but they couldn’t get Republicans on board when it came to using Medicaid to pay for abortions.

When: Saturday, Sept. 30 to Wednesday, Oct. 18, 1978 

Duration: 17 days

In 1978, Carter vetoed a $37 billion defense authorization bill, which included a $2 billion nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier — equipment he didn’t consider essential to national security, The Washington Post reported. This led to the second largest shutdown in the history of the nation.

When: Sunday, Sept. 30 to Friday, Oct. 12, 1979

Duration: 11 days

Another funding gap took place a year later when the House and Senate disagreed over raising pay by 5.5 percent for members of Congress and senior civil servants, The Washington Post reported. And there was yet again another debate over abortion funding.

President Ronald Reagan

When: Friday, Nov. 20 to Monday, Nov. 23, 1981

Duration: 2 days

President Ronald Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it didn’t make enough cuts. 

When: Thursday, Sept. 30 to Saturday, Oct. 2, 1982

Duration: 1 day

The government shut down for one day when Congress failed to pass the spending bill on time. 

When: Friday, Dec. 17 to Tuesday, Dec., 21, 1982

Duration: 3 days

Both the House and Senate wanted to increase public works spending in order to create more jobs — a move Reagan opposed. The House also opposed MX missile funding, which, The Washington Post noted, was a “major defense priority” of Reagan’s.

When: Thursday, Nov. 10 to Monday, Nov. 14, 1983

Duration: 3 days

Reagan argued over the Democratic-controlled House’s proposed foreign aid and spending cuts and their plea for an increase in funding for education. At the same time, Reagan was pushing for more funding for the MX missile.

Eventually, both parties reached an agreement.

When: Sunday, Sept. 30 to Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1984

Duration: 2 days

In short, Reagan agreed to the House’s proposed crime-fighting package, but he opposed their water projects package.

“Reagan offered to forgo his crime bill in exchange for junking the water package…but a deal wasn’t reached in time to avoid a brief shutdown,” The Washington Post reported.

When: Wednesday, Oct. 3 to Friday, Oct. 5, 1984

Duration: 1 day

Lawmakers reportedly needed another day to discuss the spending bill.

When: Thursday, Oct. 16 to Saturday, Oct. 18, 1986

Duration: 1 day

The Democratic-controlled House was once again in disagreement with Reagan and the Republican-controlled Senate. This time, over a welfare package deal.

When: Friday, Dec. 18 to Sunday, Dec. 20, 1987

Duration: 1 day

Reagan and Democrats couldn’t agree on funding for Nicaraguan “Contra” militants. Democrats also pushed to reinstate the “Fairness Doctrine,” which required licensed broadcasters to give equal air time for people with competing political points of view.

President George H.W. Bush

When: Friday, Oct. 5 to Tuesday, Oct. 9, 1990

Duration: 3 days

Only one shutdown took place during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. It occurred in October 1990 after Bush vetoed a stopgap spending bill, The New York Times reported at the time.

But the timing was right. The shutdown happened over Columbus Day weekend and most federal workers were already off for the holiday.

President Bill Clinton

When: Monday, Nov. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 19, 1995

Duration: 5 days

President Bill Clinton vetoed a continuing resolution in November 1995 over Medicare premium increases.

“The government is partially shutting down because Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment,” Clinton said during an address on Nov. 14, 1995.

When: Friday, Dec. 15, 1995, to Saturday, Jan. 6, 1996 

Duration: 21 days

It’s the longest shutdown in U.S. history: 21 days.

The government shut down after Clinton vetoed the spending bill proposed by the Republican-controlled Congress.

After a long 22 days, the president and Congress agreed to a seven year budget plan, which included “modest spending cuts and tax increases,” according to research by the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley.

President Barack Obama

When: Monday, Sept. 30 to Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

Duration: 16 days

Seventeen years later, the government shut down once again. Lawmakers couldn’t seem to come to an agreement on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2013.

The House passed several versions of the bill to fund the government. But each time, the Senate sent it back.

“This is an unnecessary blow to America,” Harry Reid, the Senate democratic leader at the time, said of the shutdown.

John Boehner, the House speaker during the shutdown, said Republicans were fighting to keep the government open, but the Senate “continued to reject our offers.”

There was a total of six shutdowns, averaging about two days, during President Ronald Reagan’s two terms.