Dan G. Blair is president and chief executive of the National Academy of Public Administration, an independent nonprofit chartered by Congress. He served as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management from 2002 to 2006.
President Obama and Congress have until March 27 to reach a budget agreement to avert a government shutdown. If they don’t meet the deadline, federal agencies will halt many public services and send “non-excepted” workers home without pay. Let’s look at some of the misconceptions about what happens when the U.S. government officially closes shop.
1. It won’t happen this time.
The country has weathered several federal shutdowns over the years, and it could happen again. The last threatened shutdown was in 2011; it was narrowly avoided late on Friday, April 8, within an hour of the midnight deadline.
The longest shutdown in U.S. history, which also happens to be the most recent, occurred during Bill Clinton’s presidency and lasted 21 days, from Dec. 15, 1995, until Jan. 6, 1996. It came only a month after a five-day shutdown from Nov. 13 to 19, 1995. From fiscal year 1981 through 1995, during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton presidencies, there were nine shutdowns, none lasting longer than three full days. Six shutdowns occurred during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, between fiscal year 1977 and fiscal year 1980, ranging from eight to 17 full days.