It was November of 1995 and the leaders of the House of Representatives, flush off their Republican Revolution victory from a year earlier, and the Clinton White House, gearing up for a reelection campaign the following year, were playing an old fashioned game of brinksmanship. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and President Clinton squared off over a budget bill, vetoed by Clinton, which resulted in the shutdown of the federal government that lasted for almost two months. Flash forward to 2011 and another new Republican majority in the House is flexing its muscles against a Democratic president that will soon be up for reelection, and another shutdown looms. This time it’s the budget bill and the raising of the federal debt ceiling that has created an impasse and both sides, the John Boehner-lead House and the Barack Obama White House, seem as if they won’t cede any ground. We give a review of the ’95 shutdown and a primer on how the government might survive a new version of budget brinksmanship.
Ed O’Keefe, political reporter at the Washington Post and author of the “Federal Eye” blog at WashingtonPost.com