The Odd Story of the Law That Dictates How Government Shutdowns Work

A shutdown would end up costing more because of the price of restarting the government — and other strange facts about the late-1800s Antideficiency Act.

Article Reprintlaw shutdown

If rogue Republicans do not relent over the budget impasse by October 1, whatever pandemonium happens next will largely be governed by a federal statute you likely have never heard of: the Antideficiency Act. You can call it the “anti-deadbeat” law — a collection of statutory and administrative provisions, really — that forbid federal officials from entering into financial obligations for which they do not have funding, like paying the salaries of their employees or buying the things they need to run the government. It’s also the law that wisely permits certain “essential” government functions — like the military and the courts, for example — to keep operating even in the absence of authorized legislative funding.

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