A shutdown of the federal government is a failure of our form of government. It happens when one party or another attempts political blackmail, and the other side calls its bluff. It is a relatively new thing in American politics. And it is being used increasingly often. Here’s a brief history of federal government shutdowns:
|1981||Reagan||1 day||Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it didn’t have all the cuts he wanted.|
|1984||Reagan||Half a day||Reagan opposed riders in an appropriation bill|
|1990||George H. W. Bush||2 days||Appropriation bill included a tax increase Newt Gingrich opposed.|
|1995||Clinton||5 days||Clinton vetoed the appropriation bill in a fight over over funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health in the 1996 federal budget.|
|1995-1996||Clinton||21 days||A continuation of the earlier fight.|
|2013||Obama||16 days||Riders to the appropriation bill repealing and delaying the Affordable Care Act and the debt limit|
|2018||Trump||4 days||A fight over the omission of language addressing immigration and specifically the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals – “Dreamers” – in the appropriations bill.|
|2018-2019||Trump||19 days and counting||Trump changed his mind and insisted on an appropriation of $5 billion for his border wall in the budget resolution for about 30% of the government|
When you see the shutdowns laid out in a table as above, there are some striking points:
- Shutting down the government to
coerceleverage a political advantage is a relatively recent development in American history. Prior to 1981, it was too extreme to be seriously considered.
- It was invented by Republicans.
- All instances of its use involve Republicans – sometimes a Republican-controlled branch of Congress, sometimes a Republican president – attempting to
coerceleverage a result. Most recently, it’s President Trump attempting blackmail Congress to get his wall.
- None of the efforts have been notably successful. Put another way, it doesn’t work.
WC will go out on a limb here: it isn’t going to work this time, either.