This Shutdown Is Different From Most Others
The popular and far more dramatic term used by the media and elected officials to describe what happens when new funding for an agency or department isn't enacted before the existing funding expires is "shutdown."
But the technical term used by federal budget geeks is "lapse in appropriations." That's what's happening now: Appropriations have lapsed.
Although almost everyone has focused on the lapses that occurred in 1995 and 1996, they actually occurred a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s.
You haven't heard much about them for several reasons:
1. Most of these lapses were short or happened over a weekend. They were barely noticed at the time and are not memorable now.
2. The lapses were not typically government-wide. Instead, they only happened to one or two agencies or departments.
3. In many ways most important, until Carter Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued memorandums in 1980 and 1981 that set up new rules and standards, agencies and departments that suffered an appropriations lapse were allowed to continue to operate as if there was no lapse at all.
In other words, using today's terminology, there were shutdowns before 1980, but the agencies and departments didn't actually shutdown.
So as you hear over the next 24 hours or so that shutdowns have happened to every president, keep in mind that most of those that happened before 95-96 are not really comparable to what's happening now.