Government Shutdown in the Age of trump

Lyngvie Altonsdatter 
January 23, 2018

This is the Age of trump.  The government experienced a shutdown that ended today (1/22/2018).  According to NBC, this is the 19th government shutdown in U.S. history.  NBC’s Pete Williams informs us that these shutdowns are called ‘spending gaps’ buy experts, because the government doesn’t fully shut down. So, are shutdowns in the Age of trump different from shutdowns of prior years?

Let’s take a quick look at the Spending Gaps from days gone by:
(sources for 1-17 Washington Post).


Shutdown #1: HEWdown

Shutdown 1 started on Thursday, September 30, 1976. It lasted 10 days, ending on Monday October 11, 1976.  Gerald Ford (Rep) was president. Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.  This shutdown occurred because President Ford vetoed a funding bill for the Department of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). Ford said that the bill failed to restrain spending adequately. The issue was resolved when Congress overrode Ford’s veto on October 1, 1976, but the shutdown ended on October 11, 1976 when continuing resolution ending funding gaps for other government areas became a law.

Shutdown #2: The Abortion Shutdown

Shutdown 2 started on September 30, 1977 and ended on October 13, 1977.  Jimmy Carter (Dem) was president.  The Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. This shutdown came to be because the House insisted on banning the use of Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions – except in cases where the life of the mother was at stake. The Senate wanted to allow for abortions in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s health was at stake.  (Sounds pretty familiar, huh?)  The issue was connected to funding for Labor and HEW and the lack of an agreement led to a funding gap.  This shutdown was resolved by continuing Medicaid until October 31, providing additional time for negotiating an agreement.

Shutdown #3: The Abortion Shutdown II: Abortion Boogaloo

This shutdown started on October 31, 1977 and ended on November 9, 1977.  Jimmy Carter (Dem) was president.  The Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.  Congress was unable to negotiate an agreement coming out of shutdown #2 so another shutdown happened so the abortion standoff could be resolved.  De ja Vu occurred & another temporary bill was signed by Carter to give them more time to resolve the abortion argument.

Shutdown #4: The Abortion Shutdown III: Dark of the Moon

#4 started on November 30, 1977 and lasted 8 days when it ended on December 9, 1977.  Jimmy Carter (Dem) was president. Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.  This is beginning to look like Ground Hog’s Day. The second temporary measure that ended shutdown #3 wasn’t long enough.  The House and Senate were still arguing and not compromising. The Senate proposed that Medicaid should pay for abortions for victims of statutory rape. The House said nope because there was nothing in place for a girl who might be gang-raped in Fort Apache, but who would not report the rape because she’d been threatened with her life.  The two sides finally agreed on allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions resulting from rape or incest or which are necessary to the mother’s health, even if her life wasn’t endangered.

Shutdown #5: Jimmy Carter vs. the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

This one started on September 30, 1978 and ended on October 18, 1978.  (This is starting to look like an annual event) Jimmy Carter (Dem) was president and the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. This shutdown occurred because Carter vetoed a defense bill that contained funding for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which  he thought was wasteful. Carter didn’t stop there, he also vetoed a public works appropriations bill because of water projects he deemed wasteful. In addition,  spending for HEW was delayed…AGAIN…because of abortion disputes.  (Hah – thought we were done with that abortion thing, didn’t you?)  The resolution came about through a new defense bill with no nuclear-powered carrier funding, a new public works bill excluded the wasteful water projects..and (drum roll please)… The previous year’s compromise on abortion was agreed to in both houses.

Shutdown #6: Higher pay, fewer abortions

So, for the annual shutdown of 1979 we have an 11 day shutdown starting on September 30, 1979 and ending on October 12, 1979.  Jimmy Carter (Dem) is still president.  The Democrats still control both the House and the Senate.  This year’s problem included the House wanting to raise congressional and senior civil servant pay by 5.5%.  The Senate wasn’t cool with that.  Of course, abortion must be involved. The lower house wanted to limit federal abortion spending to cases where the mother’s life was in danger and the Senate wanted to keep funding in place for cases involving rape, incest and mother’s health in jeopardy.  The shutdown was resolved when the House got it’s pay increases and abortion funding was allowed in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life was in danger.  Note that they cut out funding for abortions when the mother’s health was in danger.

Shutdown #7: You wouldn’t like Reagan when he’s angry

We get to skip a few years here.  The next shut down took place on November 20, 1981 and ended on November 23, 1981. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House.  In this case, Reagan said he would veto any spending bill that did not include at least $4.2 billion in domestic budget cuts. The Senate said ‘OK, whatever’ and gave him what he wanted. The House said – ‘Oh no no no’ and proposed greater defense cuts than Reagan wanted and they also wanted pay raises for themselves and for senior level federal civil servants. The House and Senate compromised on a bill that went to Reagan, and ended up being vetoed. The shutdown ended when they all agreed that current spending should extend through December 15 and they all hoped to God they could agree on something by then.  At least there was no abortion posturing in this one.

Shutdown #8: Let them eat shutdown

Lets jump ahead a year to September 30, 1982.  This one only lasted 1 day (hallelujah!). Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president.  The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House. This shutdown was totally pointless. The new fiscal year showed up before Congress was ready with new spending.  Oh and get this…they didn’t pass the spending bill in time because they all had other plans!  Sheesh!  The House and Senate passed the bills, Reagan signed and Poof! the government started up again.

Shutdown #9: Tip O’Neill takes on a nuclear missile and wins

Well, we didn’t have to wait long for the next shutdown, which started on December 17, 1982 and ended on December 21 of that year. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House. Basically, the House and Senate wanted to fund $5.4 billion and $1.2 billion in public works spending to create jobs. Reagan said he’d veto any bill that included jobs money (what a guy, huh?).  The House decided they didn’t much like funding the MX missile program, which was close to Reagan’s heart. And the government shutdown happened.  To solve the shutdown, the House and Senate gave up the money to create jobs, but they also declined to fund that MX missile or the Pershing II missile projects so dear to Reagan. For good measure they added funding for legal support for poor Americans, which Reagan really didn’t want in there.  They threw Reagan a bone by increasing foreign aid to Israel. Reagan whined and grumbled, but signed anyway.

Shutdown #10: So you can have your missiles but Israel gets some, too

Number 10 was a 3 day shutdown, taking place from November 10 – 14, 1983.  Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House.  The big bad here consisted of the House passing an amendment adding almost $1 billion in education spending. They cut foreign spending, raising Reagans ire.  They also cut defense spending by approximately $11 billion relative to Reagan’s request. So, predictably down went the government. The fix for this consisted of the House Democrats reducing education spending from $1 billion to $100 million.  They funded the MX missile, but kept foreign aid and defense cuts.  They got a ban on oil and gas leasing in federal animal refuges (hooray).  The bill added a ban on using federal employee health insurance to fund abortions (here we go again), except when the mother’s life was in danger, pretty much like the ban already in place for Medicaid (you remember that one right?).  Here’s where anti-abortion supporters won and pro-choice took a loss. In any case the shutdown ended.

Shutdown #11: Omnishutdown

Moving on to September 30, 1984, we had a 2 day shut down. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House. This time the tussle was over a spending bill that the House linked to a crime-fighting package, which Reagan liked…and a water projects package, which Reagan did not like. The Senate tied it to a civil rights measure,  that would reverse a supreme court ruling weakening civi rights requirements on universities receiving federal funds, which Reagan didn’t like.  To end the shutdown, Reagan said he’d drop his crime bill if they would get rid of the water package and the civil rights provision. This deal didn’t seem to impress the House and the Senate in time to keep the government funded, so down it went. A 3 day spending extension was passed so they could keep the argument going.

Shutdown #12: Omnishutdown II — Shut Down Harder

The 3 day extension took us to October 3, 1984 when the next shutdown started, lasting for 1 day. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House.  They needed to argue more than the last 3 days allowed, so the government shut down again.  This time, Congress yelled uncle and gave up the water projects, along with the civil rights measure. They passed the crime package that Reagan wanted and compromised on funding for the Nicaraguan Contras (oh boy and that was the introduction to a whole new can of worms for the Reagan administration).

Shutdown #13: Welfare expansion fail

Jumping ahead to October 16, 1986 we again experience a 1 day shutdown. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats controlled the House. Here we had the House disagreeing with Reagan over a provision to ban companies from creating subsidiaries to get around labor contracts and another that required half the goods and labor used in offshore oil rigs be American in origin (Makes sense to me). There was another disagreement over expanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Both Reagan and the Senate thought these ideas were bad ones. The ensuing dispute, did not solve the issues in time and, once more, the government shut down. As a fix, the House gave in, but got a promise for a vote on their welfare expansion, if they’d just pass the bill needed to reopen the government.

Shutdown #14: I Think You’re a Contra

On December 18 -20, 1987, another 1 day shutdown occurred. Ronald Reagan (Rep) was president. The Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. Reagan & Congress (Democrats) couldn’t agree on funding for the Nicaraguan Contra militants.  The Democrats also wanted a provision reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides in political disputes (the FCC had recently stopped enforcing this provision). Their disagreement took more time than available and so passed the time limit for spending. The government shut down…yet one more time.  To resolve the shutdown the Democrats caved on the Fairness Doctrine and agreed to provide nonlethal aid to the Contras.

Shutdown #15: Somebody come up with a plan!

The country experienced a short respite from shutdowns until October 5, 1990. This shutdown ended on October 9, 1990. George H.W. Bush (Rep) was president. The Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. What happened this time? Well, George H.W. stated he would not sign continuing resolution into law unless it was paired with a deficit reduction plan. He proved he was serious about that when he vetoed one that landed on his desk.  The House wasn’t able to override his veto in time and so the government shut down.  The House and the Senate fell into line and adopted a joint budget resolution that followed George H.W.’s requirements.  The president signed the resolution and the government started back up.

Shutdown #16: Clinton v. Gingrich, the First

The next shutdown, lasted 5 days, from November 13-19, 1995. Bill Clinton (Dem) was president.  The Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate.  Congress tested Clinton by sending him a continuing resolution that would have raised Medicare premiums, committed Clinton to balance the budget within 7 years, and curtailed environmental regulations…among other things. Clinton, cheeseburger in hand, exercised his veto power. This in turn caused a shutdown.  Clinton, Newt Gingrich & Bob Dole worked to develop an agreement to fund the government at 75% levels for 4 weeks while budget details were hammered out. it’s worth noting that Clinton took up the challenge to balance the budget in that 7 year timeframe. The government started up again.

Shutdown #17: Clinton v. Gingrich, the Second: Baseline Boogaloo

A mere hop, skip and jump in time brings us to December 5, 1995.  This was a whooper of a shutdown. It lasted 21 days.  Bill Clinton (Dem) was still president.  The Republicans continued to control both the House and the Senate. The Republicans, pitching a fit, pretty much caused this shutdown. They demanded that the White House propose a 7 year budget plan that balanced when using the CBO’s forecasts over the OMB estimates.  Apparently the OMB forecasted a happier budget outcome. The Republicans remained cranky even though Clinton’s proposed plan produced a $115 billion deficit in 7 years, and that was according to the CBO. The OMB cheerfully predicted that the plan would balance the budget within the defined time frame. So, how is something this silly resolved?  Well, the Republicans caved & passed legislation to keep the government open. Oh and Clinton submitted a budget plan that the CBO said was really cool and would balance the budget within 7 years.

Shutdown #18 – ObamaCare with Green Eggs and Ham

We move along to October 1, 2013 for the next 16 day, drama-filled shutdown. Barack Obama (Dem) was president.  The Democrats controlled the Senate and the Republicans controlled the house. ObamaCare was in the air and Republicans were in a tizzy. To make a complicated story short, House Republicans, led by John Boehner had pressured the White House into agreeing to lower levels of discretionary spending and House conservatives stomped their feet and said that any funding bill should delay the implementation of ObamaCare, which was set to roll out the following year. In order to derail ObamaCare,  Cruz played shutdown chicken with the Democrat-led Senate. He assumed the Senate would blink rather than let the shutdown happen. Ted Cruz made a bit of a fool of himself as he gave a 21 hour speech.  A speech that long is insane enough, but during this speech he read Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham.  The Green Eggs and Ham delaying gambit by Cruz failed miserably because the Senate didn’t blink and the government shut down. Resolution came when Boehner threw in the towel & passed a funding bill that did not defund ObamaCare.

Shutdown #19 – trump Shutdown

The trump shutdown began at midnight EST on January 20, 2018 and ended on January 22, 2018. donald trump (Rep) was president. Republicans controlled the Senate and the House. Following a year of pummeling by donald trump, the government officially broke. Admittedly, there were serious issues prior to trump, but his chaotic, unfocused, racist presidency pushed Congress past its limit. Essentially, the Republican controlled government failed to fund CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was created through a bipartisan effort in 1997). When the CHIP budget came up for re-authorization in the fall of 2017, it was not funded.  Another popular program, DACA (allows unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as children, to live and work without the threat of deportation), ended by the trump administration, put 800,000 young people in limbo. A bill failed to pass the Senate because CHIP and DACA issues were not addressed (that’s simplification to the max because I don’t want to talk about that stupid wall).  The Republicans and Democrats failed to work out a deal before the government shutdown deadline. To end the shutdown, the Democrats effectively gave up  and a 3 week stop-gap measure was put in place, favoring the Republican stance.

Shutdown #19 caused this country to become more divided than ever.  The childish antics played out by trump and the GOP did nothing but widen the chasm.

Sources for #18 are Vox and Washington Post.



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