Why Government Shutdowns are Always Looming


The Trump administration has one crisis after another, but even so, doesn’t it feel like we’re always on the verge of another government shutdown?

Trump called Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer into the Oval Office earlier this week to haggle over the budget. (Score: Pelosi 1, Trump 0) As you all know, Trump wants money for a wall included and the Democrats say no. Trump throws a tantrum and says “I’d be proud to shut down the government.”

Over and over, we see one side or the other demand that something be in the budget and when they don’t get what they want, they threaten to shut down the government.

In a nutshell, this is what is supposed to happen:
✦ The President submits his budget request to Congress.
✦ The House and Senate work on 12 appropriation budgets to fund various parts of the government, and then vote to pass them.
✦ The President signs each appropriation bill and the budget becomes law.

This is supposed to happen once a year. But, the U.S. government rarely passes a budget on time. When the deadline is looming, Congress generally passes a “continuing resolution” which essentially allows the government to be funded at the previous levels for a period of time. Right now, we are in the middle of a two-week continuing resolution.

The reason why a shutdown is always looming is because the Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on the annual budget so we keep going from one continuing resolution to another. Look at this graphic from the Washington Post where they analyzed how often a continuing resolution (or temporary measure) was in place instead of a regular budget.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 11.20.07 PM

Graphic from Washington Post

Since government shutdowns always seem like they’re about to happen, it is easy to roll our eyes and just ignore those stories. But, if the government gets shut down, hundreds of thousands of federal employees get furloughed until the shutdown is over. That’s a lot of people not getting their salaries and a lot of government services that no one can access.

That’s why it is news every time.

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