by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in Enter Stage Right
The President thought government spending was out of control, so he vetoed the appropriations bill. Congress was determined to have its way, though, and overrode the veto, restoring funding despite his objections. However, it took ten days for full funding to be restored and, in the meantime, two federal departments were shut down.
That may sound like a common theme today, but the year was 1976 and the President was Gerald Ford. I was an intern on the House side that semester, the first intern my college had ever sent to Capitol Hill, and it seemed like historically wild times. A government shutdown had never happened before. Little did we all know how common it would become in the years ahead.
There were five similar shutdowns during the Carter Administration and nine during the Reagan-Bush years. But Congress always backed down in time to restart the government by Monday morning.
That changed in the 1990s, when Congress called President Clinton’s bluff and allowed the entire government to shut down for almost a month over budget disputes. House Republicans largely took the blame in public opinion.