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Think Gov't Shutdowns Are New? Here Are Just 3 Cases Proving They're Not

Think Gov't Shutdowns Are New? Here Are Just 3 Cases Proving They're Not

“Anarchists,” hostage takers, and “economic terrorists"?

With Democrats using terms like “anarchists,” hostage takers, and “economic terrorists” in yet another debt battle, you might not only get an unflattering picture of Republicans, but you also might think government shutdowns are unprecedented. But guess what? They're not.

The latest back-and-forth between the left and right involves the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

The Republican-controlled House passed a budget deal this month that strips all funding from Obamacare. Now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to debate and pass the bill.

However, because it’s highly unlikely the Democrat-controlled senate will pass a bill that includes defunding Obamacare (and even if they did, President Obama would veto it,) we now have a situation where the government may shut down to a lack of a budget deal.

Democrats, of course, blame Republicans. Republicans, meanwhile, blame Democrats. Both sides argue that a shutdown would be unprecedented and almost unthinkable.

But here’s the thing: this wouldn’t be the first time that political wrangling has forced a government shutdown. Not even close.

Here’s just a partial list of the times that political impasses have led to or nearly led to government shut downs (or “spending gaps”). The following comes via the Washington Post:

Shutdown #1: The HEW Shut Down

U.S. President Gerald Ford (Getty Images)

When did it take place? Sept. 30 to Oct. 11, 1976

How long did it last? 10 days

Who was president? Gerald Ford

Who controlled the Senate? Democrats, 62-38; Mike Mansfield was majority leader

Who controlled the House? Democrats, 291-144; Carl Albert was speaker

Why did it happen? The major budget conflict during this period came because Ford vetoed a funding bill for the Departments of Labor and Health, Education, and Welfare (or HEW, today split into the Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services), arguing that it failed to restrain spending adequately.

What resolved it? Congress overrode Ford's veto Oct. 1, so the spending bills took effect, but it wasn't until over a week later that the partial shutdown ended, as it was only on Oct.11 that a continuing resolution ending funding gaps for other parts of government became law.

Shutdown #2: The Abortion Shutdown

A pro-abortion protester tries to block pro-life supporters with signs at a rally surrounding the Capitol in Austin, Texas on Monday evening July 8, 2013. (Credit: AP)

When did it take place? Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, 1977

How long did it last? 12 days

Who was president? Jimmy Carter

Who controlled the Senate? Democrats, 59-41; Robert Byrd was majority leader

Who controlled the House? Democrats, 292-143; Tip O'Neill was speaker

Why did it happen? The House insisted on continuing the ban on using Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions except in cases where the life of the mother was at stake. The Senate wanted to loosen this to include allowances for abortions in the case of rape or incest or when the mother's health was in danger. Because the issue had become tied to funding for Labor and HEW, failure to come to an agreement led those agencies to have a funding gap.

What resolved it? The Medicaid ban was continued until Oct. 31 and the shutdown ended, to give negotiators more time to work out a deal.

Shutdown #3: A Reagan Shutdown

Credit: Getty Images

When did it take place? Nov. 20-23, 1981

How long did it last? 2 days

Who was president? Ronald Reagan

Who controlled the Senate? Republicans, 53-47; Howard Baker was majority leader

Who controlled the House? Democrats, 244-191; Tip O'Neill was speaker

Why did it happen? Reagan promised to veto any spending bill that didn't include at least half of his proposed $8.4 billion in domestic budget cuts. The Senate passed a bill that met his specifications, but the House insisted on both greater defense cuts than Reagan wanted and pay raises for itself and for senior-level federal civil servants. Eventually, the House and Senate agreed to and passed a package that fell $2 billion short of the cuts Reagan wanted, so Reagan vetoed it and shut down the government.

What resolved it? The House and Senate passed, and Reagan signed, a bill extending current spending through Dec. 15, giving them time to work out a longer-lasting deal.

Click here to see the rest of the list.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Getty Images.


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