On Jan. 25, President Trump announced a deal with congressional leaders to reopen the government, ending a partial shutdown that lasted 34 full days. The central issue of funding for a border wall was not resolved. Funding will run out again on Feb. 15, which would trigger a new shutdown.

Longest funding gaps under current shutdown rules

Note: There were substantial federal funding gaps in the late 1970s, including a 17-day long gap beginning Sept. 30, 1978, but gaps were taken less seriously before legal opinions by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti said most government work had to cease until funded by Congress.

[Federal workers in Washington aren’t the only ones going without pay]

The funding gap shuttered large parts of several key Cabinet departments and federal agencies, and started on Dec. 22 when Congress failed to pass a budget. About 75 percent of the government had already been funded by Congress, but major departments such as Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture and Interior were unfunded.

Trump has threatened to veto a plan to reopen the government that does not include money for border security. (Photos by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Democrats took control of the U.S. House on Jan. 3, instituting divided government for the first time in Trump’s tenure.

The guidelines that a funding gap should lead to a government shutdown emerged in the early 1980s, and short federal funding gaps were common in that decade. Since then, they have grown less common, but stretched longer as parties dug in.

Number of funding gaps that occurred, by calendar year

H.W.

BUSH

W. BUSH

TRUMP

REAGAN

CLINTON

OBAMA

’81

’86

’90

’95

’13

’18

REAGAN

G. H.W.

BUSH

CLINTON

G. W. BUSH

OBAMA

TRUMP

’80

’85

’90

’95

’00

’05

’10

’13

’18

Shutdowns that spanned two separate years are counted in the year they started.

Several shutdowns were resolved in a matter of days as negotiators worked out a deal to reopen the government. Some funding gaps lasted such a short time, such as overnight or on weekends, that government agencies did not fully shut down.

Why shutdowns happened — and how they ended

When Political control Why it happened How it was resolved
Less than a day in 2018–2019

Political control

R Trump
R Senate
House (changed control)

Why it happened

Trump wanted funding for the border wall, but Democrats, who took control of the House during the shutdown, wanted to fund the government temporarily with no strings attached.

How it was resolved

Congress passed a three-week continuing resolution to reopen the government while debate on a border wall continued.
Less than a day in 2018

Political control

R Trump
R Senate
R House

Why it happened

Sen. Rand Paul briefly filibustered a two-year bipartisan spending bill over its cost. Democrats wanted a solution for “dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

How it was resolved

After the time for debate expired, Congress voted overnight to increase domestic and military spending caps and to fund the government. No deal was made for “dreamers.” Read more
3 days in 2018

Political control

R Trump
R Senate
R House

Why it happened

Democrats wanted protections for “dreamers,” but Republicans refused to negotiate on immigration until government funding was passed.

How it was resolved

Senate Democrats bowed to pressure to reopen the government when Republicans committed to hold a vote resolving the status of “dreamers” by mid-February. Read more
16 days in 2013

Political control

D Obama
D Senate
R House

Why it happened

Hard-line conservatives pushed GOP leaders to use a shutdown threat to block parts of Obamacare.

How it was resolved

Republicans relented by overwhelmingly passing a bill to fund the government without any major health-care provisions. Read more
21 days in 1995–1996

Political control

D Clinton
R Senate
R House

Why it happened

President Bill Clinton and the GOP disagreed on how to balance the budget within seven years, with Clinton using more optimistic Office of Management and Budget projections, and Republicans using Congressional Budget Office estimates.

How it was resolved

Senate Republicans gave in to pressure to reopen the government, and the party temporarily abandoned their goal of enacting a seven-year balanced budget plan. Read more
5 days in 1995

Political control

D Clinton
R Senate
R House

Why it happened

Clinton vetoed legislation that would have raised Medicare premiums and required him to submit a seven-year balanced-budget plan, triggering the shutdown.

How it was resolved

Clinton and Republicans agreed to a temporary measure to fund the government and to produce a seven-year balanced budget. Read more
3 days in 1990

Political control

R Bush
D Senate
D House

Why it happened

President George H.W. Bush refused to sign legislation funding the government unless it included a deficit reduction plan.

How it was resolved

Congress sent Bush a plan to reduce the deficit. Read more
1 day in 1987

Political control

R Reagan
D Senate
D House

Why it happened

President Ronald Reagan and Democrats could not agree on how to provide aid to Nicaraguan rebels and whether to enact into law the Fairness Doctrine requiring broadcasters to air different sides of controversial issues.

How it was resolved

Congress approved providing the Nicaraguan rebels with nonlethal aid but not the Fairness Doctrine. Read more
1 day in 1986

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

Reagan and House Democrats disagreed on several issues that weren’t resolved before a shutdown took effect.

How it was resolved

Democrats got a promise of a vote on welfare expansion but caved on most of their wishes, and Republicans offered a concession on the sale of the public-owned railway.
1 day in 1984

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

A deal on several issues wasn’t reached in the time of a three-day funding extension.

How it was resolved

Congress removed several measures from the bill according to Reagan’s wishes, kept his preferred crime funding and negotiated a settlement on funding the Nicaraguan Contras.
2 days in 1984

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

Congress attached several measures to the funding bill, including a crime-fighting package, water projects funding and a civil rights measure. Reagan offered to sign a bill without those, but a deal wasn't reached in time.

How it was resolved

Congress passed a three-day funding extension to continue negotiations.
3 days in 1983

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

House Democrats wanted nearly $1 billion in additional education funding and their foreign aid and defense spending did not align with Reagan’s priorities.

How it was resolved

Democrats reduced the education spending and funded the MX missile that they had cut in the last shutdown fight. They got their foreign aid and defense cuts.
3 days in 1982

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

Congressional leaders wanted to spend billions to create jobs, but Reagan opposed it. The Democratic House opposed funds for a nuclear missile program.

How it was resolved

Congress abandoned plans for the jobs spending, but also funded legal support for poor Americans over the president’s wishes. Reagan signed it anyway.
1 day in 1982

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

Congress hadn’t passed a new budget and lawmakers were attending social events the night of the deadline.

How it was resolved

Lawmakers returned and passed spending bills late, which Reagan signed despite reservations about the cost.
2 days in 1981

Political control

R Reagan
R Senate
D House

Why it happened

Reagan wanted billions in domestic spending cuts and promised to veto any bill that didn't include them. Congress fell short of his goal, so he vetoed the bill and ordered a shutdown.

How it was resolved

Congress passed a short-term funding deal to allow time to negotiate a longer-term solution. Read more
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