With a partial government shutdown underway, many Americans are wondering if our representatives are comprised of the most cantankerous and contrary politicians in history.
As always, some context proves helpful.
A partial government shutdown is nothing new.
The United States government has undergone a partial shutdown 17 times before — six times in the 1970s, eight times in the 1980s and three times in the 1990s. All 17 incidents involved politicians and presidents on both sides of the aisle.
Let’s take a little trip back in time:
• Sept. 30-Oct. 11, 1976: The first partial government shutdown took place under Republican President Gerald R. Ford, who vetoed a funding bill for the Department of Labor and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The Democrat-controlled Congress overruled Ford’s decision.
• Sept. 30-Oct. 13, 1977: House Democrats upheld a ban on using Medicaid to pay for abortions (except in cases when the life of the mother was at stake), while Senate Democrats worked to loosen a ban to allow abortion funding in the case of rape or incest. A funding gap was created when disagreement over the issue became linked to funding for the Department of Labor and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. A temporary agreement was reached to restore funding through Oct. 31.
• Oct. 31-Nov. 9, 1977: Democrat President Jimmy Carter signed a temporary funding agreement as negotiations continued.
• Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 1977: The temporary funding agreement expired as the House refused to budge against the Senate. A deal was eventually reached, allowing Medicaid to pay for abortions in certain cases.
• Sept. 30-Oct. 18, 1978: Carter vetoed a public works funding bill and a defense bill. Department of Health, Education and Welfare spending was also delayed over a dispute concerning Medicaid funding for abortion.
• Sept. 30-Oct. 12, 1979: The House and the Senate clashed when the House pushed for a 5.5 percent pay increase for Congress members and senior civil servants, as well as a restriction on federal spending on certain abortion cases. The Senate wanted to maintain abortion funding for cases of rape and incest.
• Nov. 20-23, 1981: Republican President Ronald Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it fell short of including some of his domestic cuts. A temporary bill restored spending through Dec. 15.
• Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 1982: Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed the required spending bills, albeit a day late.
• Dec. 17-21, 1982: Reagan and a mixed Congress disagreed on several issues. A shutdown ended in compromise on both sides when Congress members abandoned their jobs plan and Reagan yielded on funding for missiles and accepted funding for the Legal Services Corp. in exchange for higher foreign aid to Israel.
• Nov. 10-14, 1983: The House increased education funding and decreased defense and foreign aid spending, which didn’t sit well with Reagan. Once again a compromise was reached when House members reduced their education funding and accepted missile funding. Foreign aid and defense cuts remained.
• Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 1984: A dispute arose when the House tried to link the budget to a crime-fighting package Reagan supported and a water projects package Reagan opposed. At the same time, the Senate tied the budget to a civil rights measure. Reagan proposed a compromise in which he would relinquish the crime-fighting package in exchange for Congress dropping the water projects package. Congress declined. A spending extension was passed instead.
• Oct. 3-5, 1984: Congress relinquished the water and civil rights packages. Reagan retained his crime-fighting package.
• Oct. 16-18, 1986: A multi-issue dispute let to a shutdown. House members dropped their demands in exchange for a vote on their welfare package and a concession of the sale of government-owned Conrail.
• Dec. 18-20, 1987: The House and Senate opposed funding for the Contras and requested the “Fairness Doctrine” be enforced. Congress members ended up dropping the “Fairness Doctrine” request in exchange for non-lethal aid to the Contras.
• Oct. 5-9, 1990: Republican President George H.W. Bush vetoed a continued funding resolution because it was not paired with a deficit reduction package. Congress eventually passed a continuing resolution with a deficit reduction package.
• Nov. 13-19, 1995: Democrat President Bill Clinton vetoed a continued funding resolution passed by Republican-controlled Congress. A deal was eventually reached allowing for 75 percent funding for four weeks and Clinton agreed to a seven-year timetable for a balanced budget.
• Dec. 15, 1995-Jan. 6, 1996: In the longest partial government shutdown to date (21 days), Congress demanded Clinton proposed a budget using Congressional Budget Office numbers rather than Clinton’s Office of Management and Budget numbers. Clinton refused. Eventually both sides agreed to pass a compromised budget.
As the passage of time makes clear, politicians clashing over budgets is nothing new. This look back at history may not make us feel any better about the political game that is and has been played in Washington, but, at the very least, it does show that our current situation is nothing new.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.