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.
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