Why we didn't have shutdowns for most of US historyBreaking News
tags: Government Shutdowns
The government didn't face shutdowns as we know them before the 1980s. When there was a funding gap, employees continued work as usual under the assumption Congress would pass a measure.
During Jimmy Carter's administration, when Democrats controlled the White House and all of Congress, there were five spending gaps between 1977 -- 1979 that lasted at least eight days each.Carter's Attorney General, Benjamin Civiletti, issued new guidelines in 1980 and 1981 under the Antideficiency Act, instructing federal agencies to limit work to only essential operations and obligations during funding gaps.
Under the law, he said, if the government didn't have money from Congress, it would not be allowed to function.Without those stricter guidelines, the government could -- and frequently did -- function without funds to pay their expenditures.
Civiletti's interpretation of the law in 1980 changed that. He issued his first ruling in the midst of a standoff over funding for the Federal Trade Commission.
Congress failed to pass an authorization bill before their old one ended, leaving them without money after April 30, 1980. According to The Washington Post, federal agents came to some regional offices with an order for employees to cease operations.Without funds, the FTC closed its doors to confusion and frustration among its over 1,000 employees on May 1, 1980. Congress took note and quickly passed an authorization bill that day, which Carter signed in the evening, and the Commission opened its doors the next day.Thus began the modern-day shutdown.
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