« Good Lord | Main | More Context on Terrorist Attacks err... Temper Tantrums Government Shutdowns »

September 28, 2013

17 Temper Tantrums Government Shutdowns

Dylan Matthews of the WaPo's Wonkblog has compiled an annotated list of the 17 previous government shutdowns: why they happened, how long they lasted, and how they ended.

It makes for interesting reading. But whilst the context Matthews provides is extremely valuable, all that nuance and detail makes it hard to see whether any patterns exist in the data. Accordingly, the Blog Princess has simplified the information so that even a thoroughly reprehensible collection of knuckle dragging, atavistic Reich-wingnuts like the assembled villainry can grok it.

Never let it be said that we don't care deeply for even the most hate-filled and extremist of Gaia's creations.

We have extracted the month and year of each shutdown, the duration in days, and the parties controlling the House, Senate, and White House. Shutdowns longer than a few days are highlighted in a carefully neutral shade of grey. Democrat control of each entity appears in the true blue hue of enlightened collegiality and compromise that is only possible when Good People are elected, whilst the Deeply Dangerous Rethuglican Stranglehold of Death (how does that even happen, anyway?) is denoted by a harsh and jarring red; the better to raise the blood pressure and offense the senses.

Not that we're biased in any way, mind you. We just call things as we see them:


A few observations:

1. About 2/3 of the shutdowns occurred when Congress was controlled by the same party.

2. Longer shutdowns are more common when the same party controls both houses of Congress or a Democrat is in the White House.

3. Short shutdowns are more common when Congress is divided or a Republican is in the White House.

4. Seven of the nine short shutdowns occurred when Republicans controlled one house of Congress and the White House.

5. In all cases where a divided Congress shut down the federal government, a Republican was President.

For the easily amused among you, a version of this graphic that includes additional fields is also provided for your clicking and viewing pleasure.

Click to embiggen

Though we realize that serious bloggers are not supposed to admit this sort of thing, our characterization of the resolutions is somewhat subjective and was done quickly, that we might move on to other things. Still, it may be interesting to some if used with that caveat in mind.

Update: Heh:

... President Obama is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not with the House of Representatives... not only has Obama refused to negotiate with the House, he has also had his spokesman describe Republicans as suicide bombers. The irony is rich: those who are concerned about $17 trillion in debt “have bombs strapped to their chests,” while the world’s biggest sponsor of actual suicide bombers–you know, the ones who blow people up, as opposed to disagreeing with Democrats–are newly-discovered moderates.

Posted by Cassandra at September 28, 2013 09:57 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


"Never let it be said that we don't care deeply for even the most hate-filled and extremist of Gaia's creations."

Aww, that's the nicest thing you've said to me yet.
So, of course, I gotsta ax....Why?

Posted by: DL Sly at September 28, 2013 12:55 PM

Damned fine work, Cass. Guys like me need pictures to make sense of anything, or just to conclude that it makes no sense at all.

Posted by: spd rdr at September 28, 2013 07:03 PM

Very cool chart, Cassandra. Love the colors. :+)

I was surprised to see we haven't had a shut-down in 17 years. Given that we seem to be prophesying one about every 12-18 months, that's amazing. I suspect the constant angsting over how this time it's really going to happen is why I just don't believe that this time it's really going to happen.

The Left-leaning people on ABC's This Week should read your blog - they could have pushed back against Kristol when he waved his hand and said airily that shutdowns are no big deal, we've had various ones over the past 25 years. Technically, yes, but none for the past 17 years really undercuts that "over the past 25 years" hand-waving.

Posted by: Elise at September 29, 2013 12:24 PM

The chart is wrong.

The Republicans did not control the House from 1981 to 1986, they controlled the Senate.

Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neal was the speaker in those days, and I don't think he was a Republican.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 29, 2013 05:17 PM

with great respect, I think this misses the point:
1. POTUS has *huge* control over how a 'shutdown' is actually handled (who/what gets paid w/ available funds).
2. MSM has been embarrassingly missing in action in covering (1).
Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at September 30, 2013 03:39 AM

Thanks Don - that was my mistake. I transposed the column headings. It should be fixed now. Instead of changing the headings (it makes more sense to me to have the House listed first), I swapped out the columns themselves.

Good catch!

Posted by: Cassandra at September 30, 2013 04:38 AM

What interested me most was:

1. How many of these had occurred (I remember several of them, but had no idea that there had been 17), and

2. How many of them occurred when the Dems controlled both the House and the Senate.

I like the chart even more now with Don's correction, given all the overheated rhetoric about the Barbarians having taken over the House.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 30, 2013 04:43 AM

Thanks much for doing this.

(And a minor correction to the correction: The name of the late speaker is: "Tip" O'Neill, or, if you want to be formal, Thomas Phillip O'Neill, Jr.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at September 30, 2013 01:55 PM

Oh, and looks like you corrected the top chart, but not the second one.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 30, 2013 02:28 PM

h, and looks like you corrected the top chart, but not the second one.

D'oh! I went to all the trouble of saving the second graphic, but it turns out you have to actually upload it...


Sorry guys. Have been working a lot of overtime lately and the brain is the first casualty.

Thanks for the correction (and the kind words from Jim!)

Posted by: Cass - Confirmation Bigot-in-Training at September 30, 2013 03:43 PM