clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why the US government is always shutting down

How the US can shut down but other countries can’t.

Toward the end of every year, the countdown until the United States government goes into a shutdown begins. Congress and the president usually avoid it in the final hour, but sometimes they don’t manage to agree on a spending bill and the government actually shuts down. The US is really the only country that does this.

The longest shutdown in history, in 2019, lasted 35 days. Federal workers — and many contractors — didn’t get a paycheck for 35 days. Some of those employees were furloughed, meaning they didn’t have to go to work, but more than half of them still had to go into the office unpaid.

So ... why? It goes back to the Constitution and how the federal government funds its agencies. We talk to a law professor and workers who have been through a shutdown to explain.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.