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Government shutdowns: How long do they typically last?



harry reid shutdown
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during the 2013 shutdown
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Thursday, the partial shutdown of the federal government is still ongoing.

President Donald Trump’s sudden reversal on a bipartisan funding extension before the Christmas holiday forced a sizeable portion — but not all — of the government into a partial shutdown on Saturday.

Read more: Here’s what the government shutdown means for federal agencies and employees»

This is 21st time since the modern budget process began with the Budget Act of 1974 that the federal government has entered a shutdown or had a funding lapse.

On average, the 20 previous shutdowns lasted eight days, though they have been longer in recent decades. The six shutdowns since 1990 have lasted nine days on average, and removing the short, nine-hour funding lapse caused by Sen. Rand Paul in February, recent shutdowns have averaged 11 days. The longest shutdown in history, lasting 21 days, came in 1995-1996.

Most of these shutdowns weren’t severe, with 11 of the 20 lasting five days or fewer, and seven lasting three days or fewer. By making it to day six, the current shutdown is now tied for the 10th longest of the modern era.

While the current shutdown is shorter than some of the extended shutdowns, it also bears one big difference. Most of these shutdowns did not affect federal employees. Around 380,000 federal employees are now on furlough, meaning they do not report to work or get paid. In 11 of the previous shutdowns, employees were not placed on furlough.

Sending employees home has become more frequent in recent shutdowns, with furloughs occurring during five of the last six funding lapses.

Another newer wrinkle is the fact that this is just the second shutdown during which employees were placed on furlough while one party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, the other being the three-day shutdown in January.

Trump is the only president to furlough employees while his party controlled both chambers of Congress, the only one to achieve that dubious feat multiple times, and is second in total shutdowns for a president whose party controls chambers of Congress. Jimmy Carter presided over five shutdowns while Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, none of which resulted in furloughs.

The latest shutdown also moved Trump into third place with three total funding lapses during his presidency, behind Carter’s five and Ronald Reagan’s eight.

2018 also becomes just the second year of the modern era to have three funding lapses, tying 1977.

Here’s a breakdown of all the previous shutdowns:

Skye Gould/Business Insider

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