|Ronald Wilson Reagan / 1981-1989 |
from the portfolio Hindsight is Always 20/20,
R. Luke DuBois, 2008, Smithsonian American Art Museum,
negative number 2011.9.38
True story: on November 23, 1981, for the first time in U.S. history, a one day government-wide furlough was ordered by President Ronald Reagan, with 400,000 of 2.1 million federal employees furloughed. The Smithsonian sent home most staff and closed the museums. Essential staff, such as guards, keepers at the National Zoo, and building engineers stayed onsite, and employees were paid for the furlough day. In October 1984 Reagan furloughed federal workers for another half day.
In the absence of a final budget, throughout the summer of 1990, SI administration prepared for staff furloughs threatened by a Gramm-Hollings-Rudman Act mandatory 32% sequestration of federal funds in the absence of a final budget. President George Herbert Walker Bush vetoed the budget and closed the federal government from Oct. 6-8, 1990. The impact was softened because this was the Columbus Day weekend. The Smithsonian did close all museums, and the National Park Service closed their parks. Essential employees did remain at work, and many staff simply worked at home. When President Bush announced that federal workers would not be paid, Congress passed legislation ensuring that they would. Questions were raised as to whether trust employees, such as museum shop staff, should be paid for the days the museums were closed, since federal employees were paid for the furlough days.
|New York Times headline, December 16, 1995|
Pat Oliphant cartoon of budget battle between Newt Gingrich,
Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, 1994, National Portrait Gallery, NPG.2005.159
|Castle after snowstorm of January 1996|
Eric Long, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Negative number 96-1825
So the October 2013 government shut-down had several precedents. However, instructions that federal workers could not work voluntarily made the shutdown more complete with all museums and the zoo closed, and all but the most essential functions cancelled.
Pamela Henson, Director, Institutional History Division
Smithsonian Institution Archives