Government Shutdown of 1995-1996


I wasn’t paying attention back in 1995-1996.  I was managing a jazz club at the time and national politics couldn’t have been further from my mind.

If I could go back in time I might have been able to tell you that the government shut down, but maybe not.  It certainly didn’t impact my life one iota.

Come to think of it, that simple fact, that I wasn’t impacted in the least, speaks volumes to the import of most of what the Federal Government has become.

I digress.

As it turns out there are some similar themes between then and now:

The United States federal government shutdown of 1995 and 1996 was the result of a conflict between Democratic President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress

A majority of Congress members and the House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, had promised to slow the rate of government spending; however, this conflicted with the president’s objectives for education, the environment, Medicare, and public health.

Congress had passed a continuing resolution for funding and a bill for debt limit extension, each of which was vetoed by Clinton,who denounced them as “backdoor efforts” to make cuts.

And then this:

The government shutdown took place in two phases. The first lasted five days in November 1995, until the White House agreed to congressional demands to balance the budget within seven years. But talks on implementing that agreement failed, and the second shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 15, 1995 to Jan. 6. 1996. (Then a blizzard struck Washington and local federal workers could not get back to work for days after that.)

The sticking point was the GOP demand that Clinton agree to their version of a balanced budget. In months of negotiations, Clinton had actually given a far amount of ground, infuriating Democrats on the left. He agreed to a balanced budget over seven years, to tax cuts, to changes in mandatory spending programs such as Medicare. But the two sides were remained far apart on the pace of spending cuts — and even further apart on the policies behind those cuts.

Two things seem clear:

  1. It was Clinton who shut the government down the first time until finally agreeing to Republican demands.
  2. History is too kind to President Clinton.  He most certainly did not balance the budget.  That honor falls to the Republican held House of Representatives.

We’re seeing the same thing here.

We have a Democrat spender who wants to not only ignore cutting spending but wants to INCREASE spending.  Add to that his incessant “Class Warfare” and you have the perfect villain.  The set up is pretty close.

Then, as now, it’s the conservative movement that is driving the government to a balanced budget.  It’s conservatives who are holding the line on spending and insisting on cuts.  It’s the democrats who are refusing to give in.

The difference?  Boehner.  He was there in ’95.  He saw the mistakes Newt made:

  1. Seeming to relish the idea of a shutdown
  2. Allowing himself to be caricatured as a crybaby

The result is that you have a Republican caucus that knows it’s values are supported by America.  They know how the Democrats are going to act and they know that a government shutdown will force those Democrats back to the table.  And America will support the will of the conservatives.

They did in 1995 and 1996.

They did in Minnesota.

They will again in 2011.

The lesson is this:  When the Democrats come back and agree to your deal; TAKE IT!

 

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4 comments
  1. Gette said:

    Trouble is, in MN were dealing with a legie toploaded with a bunch of freshmen, one-time Charlie congresspeople who, byvtheir own admission, came into Congress with the intention of crashing the budget regardless of their reelection. They’re goiong to make the mess, take their ball and go home, and leave our children to suffer the consequences and clean up their mess. Half the GOP didn’t like the final solution, but rolled over because at least the DFL didn’t like it, either, so that was all right then.

    • pino said:

      Hi Gette,

      Trouble is, in MN were dealing with a legie toploaded with a bunch of freshmen, one-time Charlie congresspeople

      I agree; there may be some experience missing that would otherwise cause some cooperation. However, we all, R or D, seem to agree that congress is ineffectual and that we need to “vote dem bums out!”. Well, we did. We got new blood in there with the goal of changing how we go about things.

      Half the GOP didn’t like the final solution

      Yeah, I don’t like “borrowing” from the money we get tomorrow. And I especially don’t like withholding education funds. Either pay them out or cut ’em.

  2. dedc79 said:

    Not surprisingly you draw a different lesson from that shutdown than I do. Rather than take on your whole argument, I’d just make the observation that it is surely more than coincidence that Republicans always seem to rediscover their commitment to “spending restraint” when they are out of the White House and then conveniently forget it the moment they are back in control. My own cynical view (that I believe has been born out over time) is that it is all a front for trying to obstruct Democratic presidents. As opposed as democrats were to Bush’s policies, Democrats never pushed the government near a shutdown, yet the last two times we’ve had Democratic presidents the republicans have tried every method imaginable to stop them from doing just about anything (whether it was impeachment attempts, govt shutdowns, or now the debt ceiling fiasco).

    I’ve also yet to see an explanation on this blog as to why it is appropriate to hold up our payment of existing debts (money that is already owed) instead of focusing on spending going forward.

    • pino said:

      Not surprisingly you draw a different lesson from that shutdown than I do.

      🙂

      Serious. I wish that I could get us all together over beers and a cigar.

      it is surely more than coincidence that Republicans always seem to rediscover their commitment to “spending restraint” when they are out of the White House and then conveniently forget it the moment they are back in control.

      On this point, make no mistake, I agree with you 100%.

      My own cynical view (that I believe has been born out over time) is that it is all a front for trying to obstruct Democratic presidents.

      There is more than a little truth to this as well. It’s no accident that the vote record on this issue swings per the White House occupant. Every single Democrat in the Senate voted to oppose the raising of the limit last time Duba requested it.

      As opposed as democrats were to Bush’s policies, Democrats never pushed the government near a shutdown

      I suspect this is due to the fact that Democrats really don’t care that we spend more; only that as we spend more on Republican issues we ALSO spend more on Democrat ones.

      I’ve also yet to see an explanation on this blog as to why it is appropriate to hold up our payment of existing debts (money that is already owed) instead of focusing on spending going forward.

      Very fair. Rather than reply in “Comments” I’ll post. Great point though.

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