In Gracchus' case, this was done using the veto which all tribunes were entitled to use, when the tribune Octavius blocked the land act. In response, Gracchus barred the ceremonies which allowed the daily opening of the markets and temples, and as a result the city was effectively closed for business until the law was passed (as this recent documentary shows). In some ways this appears to be quite similar to the US shutdown. Although they share a number of similarities, what interested me most were the differences between them.
One significant difference between the two is the cause of the shutdown. Gracchus himself closed down Rome, which forced the Senate to pass the law in order to reopen the city, while in the US the Republicans stopped the government in opposition to the healthcare act, imposing the deadline on Obama. In this respect, the recent crisis was somewhat more serious; Gracchus held all the cards, while Obama had a far stronger opposition to his legislation.
Something else to consider is the outcome for the parties involved. Gracchus' use of the veto enhanced his reputation in Rome and was successful in passing the lex sepronia agraria, but ultimately led to his death. Like Tiberius Gracchus, Obama's reputation was somewhat improved following the shutdown, due to his refusal to back down on his principles. On the other hand, the Republicans damaged their image by blocking the healthcare act, in a similar manner to the Roman senators who opposed the people. It's relatively difficult to judge who came out better out of Gracchus and Obama, since Gracchus died as a result of his veto but ensured that his stand for the people would be remembered for 2000 years.
There are a number of parallels between Gracchus' shutdown and the more recent one, since they both helped to bring the laws being discussed to the attention of the public. However there are also some key differences, in the way that politicians tried to use them as a threat both to pass and block legislation. Regardless, it's an interesting comparison to make, and one which shows that very little is ever new. What do you think?