A year later, in November 1983, it was deja vu all over again. O’Neill and other House Democrats voted to increase education by a billion dollars beyond the president’s request and made deep cuts in defense. A short-term continuing resolution expired, and a five-day shutdown began. It ended with a compromise in which education funding increased by just $100 million and the MX missile was funded.
In the presidential election year of 1984, Democrats insisted on a massive increase in funding for water projects and a civil rights legislative package. Republicans attached to the continuing resolution a crime bill that Reagan had proposed. A brief shutdown ensued on Oct. 1, just a month before Election Day. The parties agreed to a temporary extension to keep negotiating, but that too expired before Democrats dropped their water-project funding and civil rights legislation, after which Reagan signed a one-year continuing resolution.
Later, in Reagan’s second term, there were two more shutdowns: in October 1986 and December 1987.
In none of these instances did the world come to an end. In each of them, the president engaged in good-faith negotiations to resolve the impasse. Reagan never refused to talk seriously with O’Neill and House Democrats. Each side approached shutdowns as an “action-forcing event,” in which hard bargaining would take place.