Lately it seems every few weeks Congress is caught up in another "shutodwn showdown," but actual shutdowns don't happen that often. In fact, in the past ten years the U.S. government has only shutdown once.
Since Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which reformulated the way lawmakers pass spending bills, the government has shutdown 17 times.
The first shutdown, in 1976, happened when then-president Gerald Ford vetoed a funding bill for what is now the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. He rejected the bill over concern that it failed to adequately curb overspending at the departments. That shutdown lasted 10 days.
In 1977, under President Jimmy Carter, the government shutdown three times when Congress couldn't come to an agreement on Medicaid funding for abortions. Previously there was a ban on any Medicaid dollars going toward abortion services, but through a series of shutdown deals, Congressional Democrats were able to loosen the restrictions to allow Medicaid-funded abortions in cases where the mother's life would be endangered by the pregnancy and in cases of rape or incest.
The government shutdown again in 1977 when Carter vetoed a spending bill including funding for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Carter thought the project was wasteful. He also vetoed another appropriations bill that contained funding for water projects that he labeled pork barrel projects.
Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also triggered government shutdowns when they vetoed spending bills.
The longest shutdown lasted 21 days in 1995 when fiscally conservative Congressional Republicans demanded President Clinton propose a seven-year budget that balanced under Congressional Budget Office standards instead of the more generous metrics used by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The most recent shutdown occurred in 2013, when a handful of Congressional Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) refused to pass a budget that included funding for Obamacare. Cruz famously filibustered for 21 hours and even read Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" on the Senate floor during his speech.
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