Tammy Frisby

Graph: U.S. Federal Government Shutdowns

On Monday, I’ll be teaching a class on the politics of federal fiscal policy to my Introduction to American Government and Politics students here at Stanford. As I’ve been putting together my teaching materials, I’ve been hunting for a visual representation of government shutdowns over the last few decades. I couldn’t readily find one, so I put together my own, based on information provided by the Congressional Research Service in one of their reports. It struck me that others might find this graph helpful in discussions of the current federal budget battle, so I’m sharing it via this blog. If you do use this graph, proper attribution to me and the Hoover Institution would be appreciated.

A “government shutdown” occurs when the president and Congress do not enact appropriations legislation into law, either with a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution. The Congressional Research Service refers to these periods when the the government has not enacted appropriations legislation as a funding gap. This graph shows the occurrence of federal agency appropriations funding gaps (or “government shutdowns”) between FY1977 and FY1996. As of today, we haven’t had a funding gap since FY1996.

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