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Law and Politics

Government Shutdown

Why close the government?

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  • A government shutdown occurs when a national budget for the upcoming year is not approved by Congress or signed by the president. [TIME]

  • The entire federal government will stop operating until a budget is agreed upon.

  • The national budget is outlined in a bill that must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

  • This can present challenges if the parties in power are in disagreement, or are of a different party of the president. [Business Insider]

  • If the government shuts down, federal spaces like national parks or museums close. [The New York Times]

  • Airports, schools, prisons, local parks, and libraries remain open, with some employees (like TSA agents) not paid. [The Washington Post]

  • Most workers employed by the federal government do not get paid during the shutdown. [White House Archives] Their employment status is known as "furloughed." [Office of the Director of National Intelligence]

  • For many of these furloughed workers, a government shutdown impacts their ability to pay for food, rent, and daily expenses. [The Washington Post] Some workers will apply or file for unemployment insurance. [WBFO, Local]

  • Lawmakers could continue discussing how to fund the government by passing a shorter-term funding bill to give them more time to agree on a budget. [USA Today]
  • Government shutdowns have been prevalent since 1976. [The Washington Post]

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Government shutdowns have a clear impact on people.


Many foreign nations prevent shutdowns to protect the public from political discrepancies. [The Washington Post] So why is it a political practice in the United States?


Get it right

Government shutdowns force lawmakers to create a new budget that both political parties collaborate, negotiate, and agree on. This often ensures lawmakers are not significantly adding to the national debt. [NPR]



Playing the game

Government shutdowns can be used for one political party to get a favorable aspect of a budget passed. [The Washington Post]


Some lawmakers advocate for government shutdowns in order to advance their political goals. [Vox]



Not that bad

Government shutdowns do not typically last long enough for critical agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control or Food and Drug Administration to be affected. [Fortune]


Impact on people

Majority of federal workers are not paid during a government shutdown. They either stop going to work or work without pay. [White House Archives]


Many Native Americans rely on support services provided by the government, such as food-aid programs. In a time of shutdown, it can be unclear if those services will remain. [The New York Times]  




Federally managed spaces like parks, museums, and zoos are closed. This is money wasted for people that have planned trips, and money lost by people not attending. [The New York Times]



Bad for business 

If they last long enough, government shutdowns can negatively impact the U.S. economy. [Bloomberg]


For example, the 2018 - 2019 shutdown lost Southwest $60 million in revenue in three months. [MarketWatch]



Quit the game

Voters tend to believe shutdowns are disruptive and are more about partisan politics than actually funding the government. [Vox], [The Washington Post]


  • Dec. 22, 2018: the U.S. federal government partially shut down, impacting about 800,000 federal workers. [NPR]

  • Former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that over 50% of his department would not work during the shutdown. [BBC]

  • Airports were significantly affected, as furloughed TSA agents called out sick. [The Wall Street Journal]

  • The 2018 - 2019 shutdown appears to be caused by disputes between Congress and President Trump over funding for border security and immigration. [BBC] It was the longest shutdown in U.S. history. [Reuters]

  • The government has shut down numerous times since 1976, with each occurring for different reasons. [Vox]


  • Here is a list of what is and is not affected by a government shutdown.

  • Dive deep into how this shutdown compares to every shutdown since 1976.

  • Members of Congress are still paid during a parital shutdown. Read more on why here.

  • How long do government shutdowns typically last? Check out a graph here

  • Why do government shutdowns occur so often in modern history? Read an opinion here

  • Read "How to shut down future shutdowns" from The Brookings Institute. 

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