I came across this in the New York Times:

"How the Shutdown Holdouts Have Antagonized McCarthy Before."

The first sentence says:

"Most of the House Republicans who voted against Kevin McCarthy’s stopgap spending bill have long been a thorn in his side."

the phrase:

"Shutdown Holdouts": turns out to refer to those who defeated their own party bill to avoid a shutdown, so they were pro government shutdown. So "Shutdown Holdouts" seems the opposite, therefore isn't a more appropriated phrase be: "opposition bloc" or "bill dissenters"??

I mean:"Shutdown Holdouts" sounds like those who resist a shutdown, right?

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    I'm afraid that the headline is incomprehensible gibberish with unnecessary capitalisation to anyone without a detailed knowledge of US politics. As a complete outsider I would say that "Shutdown Holdouts" could mean either pro or anti shutdown, I cannot tell from the quote. Sep 30 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


Holdout is a weird word and can be used in a lot of contexts. Oxford defines it as:

Holdout - an act of resisting something or refusing to accept what is offered. Ex: "a defiant holdout against a commercial culture"

  • a person or organization who resists something or refuses to accept an offer.

In common usage, I would just describe a holdout as "someone protesting stubbornly." It often implies an unwillingness to compromise or to listen to other views.

American Budget Shutdowns

In the case of American Budget Shutdowns, I would understand the phrase "shutdown holdout" to mean someone who was specifically pushing for a shutdown or who was not willing to compromise to avoid one.

Specifically, I would think of a "shutdown holdout" as pro-shutdown because typically congress members who are anti-shutdown are actively trying to compromise and find solutions, which isn't behavior that would be referred to as "holdout" behavior.

TLDR, yes, this phrase likely makes sense to most readers of the New York Times, but it could probably have been worded much more effectively.


The meaning of the noun "holdout" in this context is this one from Merriam-Webster:

: one that holds out (as in negotiations)

The relevant meaning of the phrasal verb "hold out" is this one:

2 : to refuse to go along with others in a concerted action or to come to an agreement
holding out for a shorter workweek

To indicate what the holdouts are holding out for, you can modify "holdout" with a noun phrase in front of it:

paid vacation holdouts (people who are holding out for paid vacations)

So a "shutdown holdout" is someone who is refusing to go along with others in a concerted action in order to make a shutdown happen. Their party's bill is a concerted effort that they're not going along with. They voted to defeat it because they're holding out for a shutdown.

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