Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Iraq war and Newt Gingrich's government shutdown

From the Washington Post comes this analysis of the Iraq war supplemental fight:
One option that would appeal to many anti-war liberals appears to be off the table -- not acting upon the veto and just not passing the supplemental, thereby denying funds for the war. Such an action would almost be akin to the Newt Gingrich-led government shutdown in 1995-1996, so Democrats have written off this tactic.
This may be an accurate take on the views of Democrats in Congress, but the Gingrich led government shutdown was a very different beast from the current debate.

In 1995, Newt Gingrich attempted to force Bill Clinton to sign a budget bill that would've significantly cut popular government programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, education, agricultural subsidies, veteran's benefits and aid to poor children. In addition, they would've sold leases to oil companies in ANWR and eliminated royalty payments for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. While cutting $270 billion dollar from the Medicaid program and $32 billion from the earned income tax credit for the working poor, Republicans would've cut taxes $245 billion, primarily on businesses.

Eventually, even the Social Security program came into their sights.

Bill Clinton vetoed the measures, both sides dug in their heels, and the government shutdown ensued. Nearly a million government employees were sent home without pay - however, the Congressmen voted to continue receiving their own paychecks.

Newt was confident that most American's shared his contempt for government workers. He discovered that they mostly just hold contempt for politicians.

The situation today is completely different. Congress has drafted a bill that funds Bush's surge, but demands he start planning the end of a wildly unpopular war. He demands a blank check.

If he vetoes the bill, he'll have cut his own funding. But government services will continue, the trains will still run on-time and no-one will worry about whether their Social Security checks are in the mail.

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