We’ve been here before: The U.S. government has shut down due to lack of funding 18 times in its history. Most of those shutdowns were short-lived, usually lasting only a few days or a little over a week. The longest shutdown was also the most recent – 21 days in the winter of 1995 and 1996. We’ve compiled some of the best writing about that shutdown and the current one.

Have another great story about government shutdowns? Email me at kara.brandeisky@propublica.org.


Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work, Wonkblog, September 30, 2013

If you haven’t been following the story, Wonkblog will catch you up.


Rant, Listen, Exploit, Learn, Scare, Help, Manipulate, Lead, New York Times Magazine, January 28, 1996

In the wake of the 1996 shutdown, the New York Times Magazinedelved into the thinking of the man behind the move, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. 


Distance From Budget Crisis No Comfort to Illinois Town, Los Angeles Times, January 7, 1996

Two Los Angeles Timesreporters trekked out to the small, conservative town of Sycamore, Ill. during the 1996 shutdown, where citizens fed up with politics were beginning to experience the effects of cuts in government services.


National Zoo reopens, but it's far from business as usual, Washington Post, January 7, 1996

If the government shuts down, who ships the elephant, rhino, hippo and giraffe manure out of the National Zoo? The Washington Post reported on the surprising and fascinating ways the 1996 shutdown hampered zoo operations.


Last Shutdown a Lesson Lost on Capitol Hill, New York Times, September 28, 2013

The last shutdown was actually quite different from the current one. For instance, in 1995, Congress had passed several appropriations bills, which funded parts of the government. Today, Congress hasn’t passed any.


The Odd Story of the Law That Dictates How Government Shutdowns Work, The Atlantic, September 28, 2013

No other government in the world shuts down the way the American government does, and it’s all because of an obscure law passed in the late 1800s. The Antideficiency Act was originally meant to prevent the president from entering into contracts before Congress approved the spending. Now it means that Congress can shut down the Executive Branch’s “non-essential” operations.


Australia had a government shutdown once. In the end, the queen fired everyone in Parliament, Wonkblog, October 1, 2013

In 1975, Australia’s parliament shut down the government during a budgetary battle. But over the course of one afternoon, Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative dissolved the whole Parliament. A month later, Australians elected a whole new government, and it has never had a shutdown since.