Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Find major events in U.S. History from 2000 through the present, including the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, the historical election of Barack Obama, the death of Michael Jackson, and more.

2000 According to the census, the nation's population numbers more than 280 million (April 1). No clear winner is declared in the close presidential election contest between Vice President Al Gore and Texas governor George W. Bush (Nov. 7). More than a month after the presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against a manual recount of ballots in certain Florida counties, which it contends would violate the Constitution's equal protection and due process guarantees. The decision provokes enormous controversy, with critics maintaining that the court has in effect determined the outcome of the election (Dec. 12). Bush formally accepts the presidency, having won a slim majority in the electoral college but not a majority of the popular vote (Dec. 13).
Examining a Disputed Ballot
2001 George W. Bush is inaugurated as the 43rd president (Jan. 20). Two hijacked jetliners ram twin towers of World Trade Center in worst terrorist attack against U.S.; a third hijacked plane flies into the Pentagon, and a fourth crashes in rural Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people die in the attacks (Sept. 11). U.S. and Britain launch air attacks against targets in Afghanistan after Taliban government fails to hand over Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks (Oct. 7). Following air campaign and ground assault by Afghani opposition troops, the Taliban regime topples (Dec. 9); however, the hunt for bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda terrorist organization continues.
World Trade Center Towers N.Y.
New York's World Trade Center Towers
2002 In his first State of the Union address, President Bush labels Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an ?axis of evil? and declares that U.S. will wage war against states that develop weapons of mass destruction (Jan. 29). President Bush signs legislation creating a new cabinet department of Homeland Security. (Nov. 25).
George W. Bush
George W. Bush
2003 Space shuttle Columbia explodes upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board (Feb. 1). War waged by the U.S. and Britain against Iraq begins (March 19). President Bush signs $350 billion tax-cut bill (May 28).
The crew of the Columbia STS-107
Space Shuttle Columbia crew, from left to right, David M. Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon
2004 The U.S. returns sovereignty to an interim government in Iraq, but maintains roughly 135,000 troops in the country to fight a growing insurgency (June 28). Four hurricanes devastate Florida and other parts of the southern United States (Aug. and Sept.).
2005 The U.S. engagement in Iraq continues amid that country's escalating violence and fragile political stability. Hurricane Katrina wreaks catastrophic damage on Mississippi and Louisiana; 80% of New Orleans is flooded (Aug. 29?30). All levels of government are criticized for the delayed and inadequate response to the disaster. Sandra Day O'Connor announces her retirement as a Supreme Court Justice (July 1). Chief Justice William H Rehnquist passes away after battling thyroid cancer (Sept. 3). John G. Roberts assumes the role of chief justice (Sept. 29).
Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, search for insurgents during Operation Indy in Mosul, Iraq.
American soldiers search for insurgents in Mosul, Iraq
2006 The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population of the United States has reached 300 million (Oct. 17).
2007 California Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives (Jan. 4). Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admits that the Justice Department made mistakes and exercised poor judgment in firing nine federal prosecutors in late 2006 (March 13). Male student kills two in a Virginia Tech dorm. Two hours later, he kills 30 more in a classroom building before committing suicide. The shooting rampage is the most deadly in U.S. history. Fifteen others are wounded (April 16). The minimum wage in the U.S. increases to $5.85, up from $5.15. It's the first increase in 10 years. The wage will increase 70 cents each year through 2009, when it reaches $7.25 an hour (July 24). An eight-lane interstate bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that is packed with cars breaks into sections and falls into the river, killing 13 people (Aug. 1). The White House announces that Alberto Gonzales, the beleaguered attorney general, has submitted his resignation to President Bush (Aug. 27). In highly anticipated testimony, Gen. David Petraeus tells members of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees that the U.S. military needs more time to meet its goals in Iraq. Petraeus rejects suggestions that the U.S. shift from a counterinsurgency operation to training Iraqi forces and fighting terrorists. Instead, he says the U.S. must continue all three missions (Sep 10).
Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales
2008 After months of campaigning and primary races, Barack Obama and John McCain are finally chosen as the presidential nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively (June 3). After months of unraveling, the economy finally comes crashing down in 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling 4.4% in one day, Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, and Bush putting mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under government conservatorship (Sept.). Democrats perform well across the board in the November elections. Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected President, with 52.8% of the vote. In Congress, Democrats retain majorities in both the House and the Senate, with 57 Senators and 178 Representatives (Nov. 4).
Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
2009 President Obama signs executive orders closing all secret prisons and detention camps run by the CIA, including the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, and banning coercive interrogation methods (Jan. 22). The Senate votes in favor of a $168 billion package that gives rebates of $300-$600 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and to couples with incomes up to $150,000. Families will be eligible for up to $300 in rebates for each child (Feb. 7). President Obama signs the $787 billion stimulus package into law. The president's hope is that the package will create 3.5 million jobs for Americans in the next two years (Feb. 17). Insurance giant American International Group reports a $61.7 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. A.I.G. lost $99.3 billion in 2008. The federal government, which has already provided the company with a $60 billion loan, will be giving A.I.G. an additional $30 billion. Nearly 80% of A.I.G. is now owned by the federal government (March 2). After confirming 20 cases of swine flu in the United States, including eight in New York City, the U.S. declares the outbreak a public health emergency (April 26). Michael Jackson, lifelong musician, pop singer, and superstar, dies at age 50 (June 25). The Senate approves, 68 to 31, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. She's the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve on the Court. (Aug. 25) Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, a fixture in the Senate for 46 years, dies of brain cancer at the age of 77 (Aug. 6). A shooting at the Fort Hood army post in Texas kills 13 and injures 29. Ten of those killed are military personnel. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder (Nov. 5). A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda (Dec. 25).
Edward M. Kennedy
Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy
2010 An explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico sends millions of gallons of oil into the sea. The spill kills 11 and is the largest off-shore spill in U.S. history as well as one of the largest spills in world history (Jan. 22). The United States Senate votes 63 to 37 to confirm President Obama's most recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, as the newest Justice. Kagan is only the fourth woman to ever hold this position, and she'll be the third female member of the current bench, joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan is the former dean of Harvard Law School; she'll be the only member of the current Supreme Court to have no previous experience as a judge (Aug. 5). The Senate votes 65 to 31 in favor of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Clinton-era military policy that forbids openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Eight Republicans side with the Democrats to strike down the ban. The repeal is sent to President Obama for his final signature. The ban will not be lifted officially until Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agree that the military is ready to enact the change and that it won't affect military readiness (Dec. 18).
Elena Kagan
Elena Kagan
2011 Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords is among 17 shot by a gunman who opened fire on the congresswoman's constituent meeting outside a local grocery store. The gunman, who police identify as Jared Lee Loughner, is apprehended (Jan. 8). President Obama announces his intention to reduce the federal deficit by $400 billion over 10 years. His plan for enacting this dramatic reduction includes budget cuts and freezes, including a spending freeze on many domestic programs (Jan. 24). The Obama Administration determines that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The Justice Department will stop defending the law in court (Feb. 23). With less than two hours to spare, an agreement on the federal budget is made, avoiding a government shutdown. Republicans demand a provision to restrict financing to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. Obama and the Democrats refuse to budge on the abortion provision, but they do agree to tens of billions in spending cuts (April 1). Legendary Boston crime boss, James "Whitey" Bulger is found and arrested by federal authorities in Santa Monica, Calif. Bulger is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and has been indicted in 19 murders (June 22). Congress makes an 11th-hour deal to prevent a national default. The deal raises the debt ceiling in two steps to $2.4 trillion and cuts an initial $1 trillion in spending over ten years (Aug. 1). For the first time in history, the U.S. has its credit rating lowered. Credit agency Standard & Poor's lowered the nation's credit rating from the top grade of AAA to AA+, removing the U.S. from its list of risk-free borrowers (Aug. 5). The Congressional Supercommittee in charge of finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions fails to agree on what programs to cut. Therefore, automatic cuts to military and domestic programs will go into effect in 2013 (Nov. 21).
Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords
2012 The Pentagon announces that women will now be permanently assigned to battalions. Many women already serve in those battalions due to demand in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new ruling only makes these job assignments official and upholds the ban on women serving in combat (Feb. 9). Hurricane Sandy causes at least 132 deaths and an estimated 82 billion in damages, making it the second costliest hurricane in the U.S., behind Katrina. New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are hardest hit (Oct. 29). President Obama is re-elected, narrowly defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Democrats keep their majority in the Senate. Key victories for the Democrats include a win for Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. Her victory makes her the first openly gay candidate to capture a seat in the Senate. The Republicans keep the majority in the House of Representatives with 232 seats to 191 for the Democrats (Nov. 6). Adam Lanza, age 20, forces his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, and kills 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven. Then Lanza takes his own life while still inside the school (Dec. 14).
Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin
2013 Multiple bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people are killed and more than 170 people are injured (April 15). The Guardian receives information that reveals that the National Security Agency (NSA) is using PRISM to spy on the web activities, including email, of U.S. citizens. Through PRISM, a clandestine national security surveillance program, the NSA has direct access to Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google, Apple, Yahoo and other websites (June 6). The Guardian publishes a report on another NSA tool called Boundless Informant, used by the U.S. government to watch activity in every country in the world. President Obama confirms the existence of PRISM and its use to spy on the online activity of U.S. citizens (June 8). Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, comes forward and admits that he is the source of the recent NSA leaks (June 9). Congress fails to agree on a budget and pass a spending bill, causing the government to shut down. The government shutdown forces about 800,000 federal workers off the job (Oct. 1). The night before the debt ceiling deadline, both the House and Senate approve a bill to fund the government until January 15, 2014, and raise the debt limit through February 7, 2014. The bill ends the 16-day government shutdown. It also ends the Republican standoff with President Obama over the Affordable Care Act (Oct. 16). The Senate deploys the "nuclear option," voting 52-48 to end the right of the minority to filibuster executive and judicial branch nominees. The vote is called a monumental, once in a generation change to Senate procedure (Nov. 21). The first ruling against the NSA surveillance program is handed down by Judge Richard Leon of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. He says the program is "significantly likely" to violate the Fourth Amendment which addresses protection against unreasonable searches (Dec. 16). Just days after Judge Leon's ruling, an advisory panel commissioned by President Obama releases a 300-page report that recommends 46 changes to the NSA surveillance program (Dec 18).
Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden
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