U.S. Government Shutdown: What Is A Government Shutdown?

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What is the meaning of a government shutdown? A government shutdown is something that is highly synonymous with the politics of the United States.

It is a political situation in the United States whereby the government practically comes to a halt and stops providing non-essential services to the general public. A government shutdown in the United States causes a great deal of services that are considered non-essential to stop. Some of these services include passport applications, social security card applications, garbage collection, national museums and zoos, benefits for pensioners, etc.

During a government shutdown in the United States, all non-essential personnel are forced to take a furlough.

What is a furlough?

A furlough is the process whereby government workers are told to stay away from work because of a political issue such as a government shutdown or because the government does not have enough money to pay them. Government shutdowns in the United States are highly synonymous with a large percentage of government workers being furloughed.

During a government shutdown, even basic things such as the national parks and museums scattered all over the country are closed to the general public. Even schools are closed. All government civilian workers whose jobs are not extremely essential are forced to stay at home without pay. A government shutdown can be quite a disturbing situation to the general public as it makes life very difficult.

The only government services that function during a government shutdown are very essential services such as national weather service, the armed forces, medical services, the prison service, the postal service etc. Also, very essential government employees such as the police, fire fighters, soldiers, intelligence agencies, etc work during a government shutdown.

What causes a government shutdown?

The main reason why the government shuts down in the United States is because of Congress failing to pass a budget bill before the current budget cycle comes to an end. If the current federal budget cycle reaches an end and Congress is unable to reach a deal then the United States government automatically shuts down.

What literally happens here is that because of the political divide, there are occasions when Congress sometimes finds it very difficult to resolve disagreements over budget allocations for the upcoming fiscal year.

From 1976 to 2013, the United States Federal government has shut down on approximately 18 occasions. The latest of the shut downs occurred on September 30, 2013.

Presently, the longest federal government shutdown in the United States lasted 21 days during the tenure of former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The government shutdown began on December 15, 1995 and ended on January 6, 1996. During this period, the government stopped all the provision of services except for services that were considered highly essential to the nation.