Do I repeat myself?


Democrat President. Congressional Republicans. Fights over healthcare funding in the budget. Shutdown.

Wait, isn’t this supposed to be the Century piece? Why are we rehashing present-day politics?

Turns out, we aren’t.  Well, at least not directly.

In 1995 (and early ’96) Democratic President Bill Clinton was in a stalemate with the Republican House (represented, largely, by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich) over the federal budget. Among the items hotly contested? Healthcare. Specifically, funding for Medicare and public health.

In short, when Clinton refused to cut the budget in the way Republicans desired (the Republican plan would have increased Medicare Part B premiums and cancelled a then-scheduled reduction in premium rates), Gingrich threatened to refuse to raise the debt limit, an act which would have caused the United States Treasury to suspend funding for certain portions of the government to keep the country from going into default.

So what happened?

When neither side refused to budge, the government shut down on Nov. 14, 1995. The shutdown concluded Nov. 19, when Congress enacted a temporary spending bill, but the political head butting remained and the Feds shut down again from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996.

When the government finally came online again (budget flexibility came by way of then-Majority Leader Bob Dole), The Pew Research Center conducted a poll to see whom the American people blamed for the shutdown. Of those polled, 46 percent blamed the Republican Congress; 27 percent blamed Clinton.

A 2010 Congressional Research Service report found the shutdown impacted all sectors of the economy, as “nonessential” elements of government including health and welfare services for military veterans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and national parks were all shut down. The report found the closure of 368 national park sites resulted in the loss of about seven million visitors; applications for passports and visas were halted, affecting more than 220,000 people per day; U.S. tourism and airline industries incurred millions of dollars in losses; and more than 20 percent of federal contracts, representing $3.7 billion in spending, were adversely affected.

According to Gingrich, positive effects of the 1995/1996 shutdown included the balanced-budget deal in 1997 and the first four consecutive balanced budgets since the 1920s.

Clinton won reelection in 1996, and Republicans retained their majority in the House and Senate.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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