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Government Shutdowns in U.S. History

Duration and Year of Government Shutdowns

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U.S. Capitol Dome

The dome of the U.S. Capitol is picture here in January 2011.

Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images News

There have been 18 government shutdowns in modern U.S. political history. There were six shutdowns ranging from eight to 17 days in the late 1970s, but the duration of government shutdowns shrank dramatically beginning in the 1980s.

And then there was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in late 1995, lasting three weeks and sending hundreds of thousands of government workers home without paychecks.

There has been only one government shutdown since then. The most recent government shutdown began on Oct. 1, 2013, when some members of the 113th Congress refused to support the continued funding over federal government operations unless parts of the Obamacare healthcare reform law were reversed or delayed. That shutdown last 16 days.

More Recent Government Shutdowns

The most recent government shutdowns before 2013 came in the 1996 fiscal year, during President Bill Clinton's administration.

  • The first government shutdown of the Clinton administration lasted five full days from Nov. 13 through Nov. 19, 1995, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some 800,000 federal workers were furloughed during that shutdown.

  • The second government shutdown was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. It lasted 21 full days from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996. Some 284,000 government workers were furloughed and another 475,000 worked without pay, according to the Congressional Research Service.

List of All Government Shutdowns and their Duration

This list of government shutdowns in the past was drawn from Congressional Research Service reports:

  • 2013 (President Barack Obama): Oct. 1 to Oct. 17 - 16 days
  • 1995-1996 (President Bill Clinton): December 5, 1995, to January 6, 1996, - 21 days
  • 1995 (President Bill Clinton): Nov. 13 to 19 - 5 days
  • 1990 (President George H.W. Bush): October 5 to 9 - 3 days
  • 1987 (President Ronald Reagan): December 18 to December 20 - 1 day
  • 1986 (President Ronald Reagan): October 16 to October 18 - 1 day
  • 1984 (President Ronald Reagan): October 3 to October 5 - 1 day
  • 1984 (President Ronald Reagan): September 30 to October 3 - 2 days
  • 1983 (President Ronald Reagan): November 10 to November 14 - 3 days
  • 1982 (President Ronald Reagan): December 17 to December 21 - 3 days
  • 1982 (President Ronald Reagan): September 30 to October 2 - 1 day
  • 1981 (President Ronald Reagan): November 20 to November 23 - 2 days
  • 1979 (President Jimmy Carter): September 30 to October 12 - 11 days
  • 1978 (President Jimmy Carter): September 30 to October 18 18 days
  • 1977 (President Jimmy Carter): November 30 to December 9 - 8 days
  • 1977 (President Jimmy Carter): October 31 to November 9 - 8 days
  • 1977 (President Jimmy Carter): September 30 to October 13 - 12 days
  • 1976 (President Gerald Ford): September 30 to October 11 - 10 days
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