Longest government shutdown in history: A look back at other recent federal government shutdowns

ByDanny Clemens KGO logo
Friday, January 25, 2019
A look back at recent government shutdowns
Before 2018, the federal government experienced more than a dozen prior shutdowns and funding gaps.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he intended to sign legislation temporarily re-opening the federal government after a record 35-day partial shutdown.

Before 2019, the federal government experienced more than a dozen shutdowns and funding gaps of varying lengths and with varying impacts.

While the federal government went more than a decade without a shutdown in the early 2000s, they happened almost annually during the Carter presidency, and there were six during Reagan's presidency.

In the early 1980s, opinions by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti altered the impact of lawmakers' failure to pass new spending bills. Prior to that, shutdowns did not always entail an actual stop to government functioning, according to the Associated Press, and they were "simply funding gaps with little real-world effect."

RELATED: 5 Things to know about government shutdowns

Here's a look back at shutdowns since 1990:

October 1990

The federal government shut down over the three-day Columbus Day weekend as President George H. W. Bush and lawmakers worked out a plan to reduce the national deficit.

Because the shutdown occurred over a long weekend, the impact was minimal compared to one that would have happened during the work week. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the number of employees sent home or told not to work was less than 3,000 per day, with the Department of the Interior and the Library of Congress being the most heavily impacted. Many agencies said they experienced little to no impact.


There were two separate shutdowns over the 1995 holiday season. During the first, the government shut down for several days in mid-November after Congress tried to raise Medicare premiums and require President Clinton to balance the budget within seven years. Lawmakers ultimately agreed to a deal that bought more time for negotiations by partially funding the government for four weeks.

But four weeks later, another three-week shutdown began largely over the minutia of how to balance the budget. While Clinton wanted to use Office of Management and Budget data to balance the budget, Republican leaders wanted to use Congressional Budget Office data. The difference between the two offices' budget forecasts amounted to approximately $115 billion.

Clinton eventually agreed to use Congressional Budget Office data. The final deal also included "modest spending cuts and tax increases."

The 1995-1996 shutdowns are estimated to have cost the federal government approximately $2.1 billion when adjusted for inflation, according to the Pew Research Center, much of which was in back pay to furloughed workers.

October 2013

The federal government shut down for 16 days as the Obama administration and Senate Democrats sparred with Republicans attempting to defund Obamacare. Both parties eventually agreed to a deal that funded the government for three more months and resulted in minor changes to Obamacare.

The shutdown affected most government operations and resulted in the furlough of 850,000 employees, costing the government 6.6 million days of work and more than $2.5 billion in lost productivity, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

January 2018

The federal government was shut down from Jan. 20 until the evening of Jan. 22 as both parties sparred over the future of DACA, among and other issues. Both parties eventually came to a consensus and struck a short-term deal to reopen the federal government; their deal included a Republican pledge to address Democrats' immigration-related concerns and six years of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The three-day shutdown impacted as many as 800,000 furloughed government employees, the Office of Management and Budget said.

Just weeks later, the federal government experienced a nine-hour funding gap -- which some referred to as a second government shutdown -- that was resolved by 9 a.m. EST on Feb. 9.

December 2018-January 2019

A partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018, after an agreement could not be reached in the midst of a long-running impasse over funding for Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall. As of Jan. 25, it had stretched 35 days, making it the longest government shutdown in American history.

On that day, Trump said he intended to sign a bipartisan, short-term deal that would re-open the federal government for three weeks while lawmakers moved forward with long-term negotiations. That deal did not include the $5 billion in funding for Trump's trademark border wall.

Approximately 800,000 federal workers went without pay over the course of the five-week partial shutdown, though they will receive back pay. According to one estimate, the shutdown resulted in $1.2 billion in economic losses per week.

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.