Get faster updates
Download the free Breaking News app for faster updates, alerts and live video.
In U.S. politics, a government shutdown is the name for the process the Executive Branch must enter into when the Congress creates a "funding gap" by choosing not to or failing to pass legislation funding government operations and agencies. If interim or full-year appropriations are not enacted into law, the United States Constitution and the Antideficiency Act require the federal government begins a "shutdown" of the affected activities. If the funding gap lasts long enough that shutdown plans must be enacted, the law requires the furlough of non-emergency personnel and curtailment of agency activities and services. Programs that are funded by laws other than annual appropriations acts (like Social Security) also may be affected by a funding gap, if program execution relies on activities that receive annually appropriated funding. Although the term government shutdown usually refers to what occurs at the federal level, shutdowns have also occurred at the state/territorial and local levels of government.
During Gerald Ford's presidency, one funding gap occurred, lasting 10 days. Under the Carter administrations, funding gaps caused 5 partial shutdowns that affected only the departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare. These lasted from 8 to 18 days and the primary issue of dispute was federal funding for abortion. During the Reagan administration, there were funding gaps with technical shutdowns lasting less than 48 hours or over weekends while spending measures were negotiated rendering them to be of negligible effect. A funding gap during the George H. W. Bush administration also caused a weekend shutdown, resolved late the following Monday.
During the Clinton administration, there were two full government shutdowns during 1995 and 1996 lasting 5 and 21 days respectively, both the longest and most severe to that date. These shutdowns led to massive furloughs and significant disruption. The primary issue was the United States budget deficit.
The United States federal government shutdown of 2013 ran from October 1 to 16, 2013. The primary issue of dispute between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate was the Republicans' desire to delay or defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), signed into law in 2010. A bill to end the shutdown and fund federal agencies through January 15, 2014, passed the Senate and the House and was signed into law on October 17, 2013. Standard & Poor's, the financial ratings agency, stated on October 16 that the shutdown "to date has taken $24 billion out of the economy," and "shaved at least 0.6 percent off annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth."