UPDATED: There are lots of analyses of prior federal government shutdowns, but there are a couple of things to remember. First, both parties have been the disruptor in the past. Second, we date the shutdowns from 1976 because that’s when the current budgeting process was born. Third, the current shutdown is the 18th; the length has ranged from 1 to 21 days with an average of 6.5 days.
Here are some suggestions to prevent such kindergarten behavior in the future but all would probably require a Constitution Amendment because too often our political reps (both parties) ain’t statesmen.
- Nexus 1. Legislation (amendments must be germane; all parts of a bill must have relevance to each other). I believe most states have this requirement regarding legislation.
- Nexus 2. Filibuster. That is, you can talk all you like but it has to be germane to the issue you are “debating.”
Nexus 3. Appropriations. Want to spend (or not spend) money?
Funding decisions made ONLY in budget legislation and. NO legislating through appropriation. That is, if a bill passed – you gotta fund it. And you can’t “defund” simply by saying “we’ve decided we don’t want to implement that bill we passed and the President signed.” Bonus legislation: kill earmarks.
Answer : Democrats have led more shutdowns than Republicans. Federal government shutdown begins in the House of Representatives. Republicans have controlled the House for eight sessions since 1976; Democrats have controlled the House for 12.
- Gerald Ford – 2.5 years – ONE shutdown (10 days) – R/D/D (1974-1976)
- Jimmy Carter – 4 years – FIVE shutdowns (57 days) – D/D/D (1977-1980)
- Ronald Reagan – 8 years – EIGHT shutdowns (13 days) – R/R/D (1981-86) and R/D/D (1987-88) – no shutdown in 85 and 88
- George H.W. Bush – 4 years – ONE shutdown (3 days) – R/D/D (1989-1992)
- Bill Clinton – 8 years – TWO shutdowns – D/R/R (26 days) (1993-2000)
- George W. Bush – 8 years – NONE – R/R/R (2001-06) and R/D/D (2007-08)
- Barack Obama – 5 years – ONE shutdown – D/D/D (2009-10) and D/D/R (2011-13)
Average length of time of shutdown:
- Ds control House: 6.5
- Rs control House: 13 days
Who was fighting?
- President v Congress : 12
(either President vetoed or refused to sign or led negotiations in Senate where his party was in power)
- House v Senate: 5
(all intra-party struggle, Democrats)
- Simply oops : 1
(one Reagan 1-day shutdown)
So who was in control?
- All three D – 4 sessions / 5 shutdowns
- All three R – 2 sessions / 0 shutdowns
- Ds in full control of Congress – 8 sessions / 7 shutdowns
- Rs in full control of Congress – 5 sessions / 2 shutdowns
- D president/D Senate only – 2 sessions / 1 shutdown
- R president/R Senate only – 3 sessions / 8 shutdowns
- D president/D House only – 0 sessions / 0 shutdowns
- R president/R House only – 1 session / 0 shutdowns
- FAS analysis, September 2013
- A visual guide to the balance of power between Congress and the President
- Washington Post, 25 September 2013
Updated: 5.39 pm Pacific (added President v Congress analysis) – strike-through for clarity.
Updated: 11.34 am Pacific Wednesday (new image shows power relationship of Congress: see original image)
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