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Government shutdown: In 1995-96, the government shut down for 3 weeks

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The government shutdown that started at midnight on Friday is the third one this year and for the Trump administration.

It is unclear when this shutdown will end. President Trump said he won’t budge until the Democrats approve $5 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Incoming Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested it is “possible” that the shutdown stretches into 2019.

This shutdown, much like the first one of 2018, is similar to the longest shutdown in US history, which took place under former President Bill Clinton while Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. It lasted over three weeks, from December 15, 1995 to January 6, 1996.

What happened that time

All of the government shutdowns since the budget rules changed in the 1970s. Before that, government shutdowns simply didn’t happen.
Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

That record shutdown took place less than a month after a previous shutdown in November 1995 closed the government for five days due to budget battles between Clinton, a Democrat, and Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Although temporarily resolved after November, the two side’s disagreements on funding for public initiatives spilled over again into another funding impasse soon afterward, leaving the government paralyzed as it rang in the new year.

Like nearly all funding gap problems, the 1995-96 government shutdown was about a difference in priorities. While Gingrich was dead set on reducing government spending at the federal level, Clinton wanted to expand spending on Medicare, education, the environment, and public health.

How the record shutdown compares to today

President Donald Trump greets former President Bill Clinton at the US Capitol on January 20, 2017.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

While federal spending as an idea was not a sticking point in 2018, the third stalemate of the year is similar because the two parties have vastly different ideas about how to tackle what is perhaps the most important issue in the era of President Donald Trump — immigration.

Democrats vehemently refuse to grant Trump $5 billion in border wall money. Though Trump previously said he would be “proud” to take the blame for the shutdown over the wall, Republicans are now pointing the finger at Democrats.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who adjourned official Senate negotiations until Thursday, said Democrats have “refused to meet President Trump halfway and provide even one-fifth of the resources for the border they were willing to provide just a few months ago.”

The delayed effect of the impasse on work in Washington is similar to what happened during the Clinton-Gingrich shutdown. Because government funding officially ran out at the end of Friday, December 15, 1995, the full effects of the shutdown were not felt until thousands of government employees were furloughed starting Monday, December 18.

Ironically, while the 1995-96 shutdown was the longest in history, only about 284,000 employees were forced to stay home during the three-week period, compared to the 800,000 who were furloughed during the five-day shutdown in November 1995.

As if to add insult to injury, just as Clinton and the Republicans were reaching a deal on Saturday, January 6, a massive blizzard dumped two feet of snow on Washington, DC, forcing government workers to stay out of the office for yet another five days.

The snowstorm that caused these additional environment-related work leaves was aptly dubbed “the Furlough Storm.

Could this shutdown shatter records?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, walk out of the West Wing to speak to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, following a meeting with President Donald Trump.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Unlikely.

Nancy Pelosi, who will become speaker once the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in January, tweeted that “the new House Democratic majority will swiftly pass legislation to re-open government in January” if the shutdown endures until then.

Some Republicans, however, are seemingly in no rush to re-open the government until then. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised President Donald Trump for his decision to shut down the government, encouraging the president to “dig in.”

“When you make a promise to the American people, you should keep it,” Graham said during a Friday night interview on Fox News just before the government shut down. “The one thing I like about President Trump ― he’s trying his best to keep his promise. He promised to build a wall, and he’s going to fight hard to keep that promise. After the caravan, if you don’t see the need for more border security, you’re blind.”

For now, the shutdown is expected to last until December 27.

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