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Uncovering The Realities of US Shutdown Woes: A Look Back At History

The United States has a long and extensive history of threatened and real shutdowns of the federal government, yet lawmakers once again find themselves in a familiar position. Shutdowns occur when laws expire and Congress is unable to pass a new spending bill to keep the government running. When the government shuts down, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are forced to take leave without pay, programs ranging from Social Security to NASA take a hit, and the national debt keeps growing. Despite these consequences, a shutdown has become seemingly inevitable for the U.S. due to disputes between the two major political parties. This has been the case since the 1990s, when shutdowns began occurring more frequently. One of the most recent, pervasive shutdowns in the U.S. occurred in 2013, when Congress failed to reach an agreement on the budget causing a sixteen-day-long standstill. However, there have been several occasions when shutdowns were averted at the last minute. This included a narrow agreement reached to avert a shutdown in 2011 and an even closer agreement in 1996. While a last-minute resolution is welcome news for some, it rarely comes without a cost. During a 2011 shutdown, for example, the agreement was reached just hours before the deadline, leaving the government no time to issue warnings or make adequate preparations. This in turn resulted in several aviation delays and some unemployment claims going unpaid for a few days. With the potential of a “do-nothing” Congress looming, and shutdowns becoming more frequent and commonplace, it is time for the government to take greater steps to avoid the situation altogether. Many suggest that this can be done by finding compromises between the two parties in order to pass spending bills with less controversy and more efficiency. However, it remains to be seen if Congress can learn from past shutdowns and keep the government running without disruption.