The latest government shutdown is the first in 18 years. But Washington veterans know stalemate used to be the rule, not the exception.
The government shut down six times during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, for anywhere from one to four days, as Reagan and the Democratic House haggled over spending priorities.
Democrat Lee Hamilton and Republican Dan Coats were part of Indiana‘s congressional delegation for those fights, and for the 1995 faceoff between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich which produced two shutdowns totaling 26 days. Both say Washington is more dysfunctional this time, but they place the blame in different places.
Hamilton, now retired, says Congress is lurching from one crisis to the next while denying the risks to the economy. Coats, now Indiana’s senior senator, says both Reagan and Clinton were deeply engaged in trying to reach a solution, while President Obama has refused to negotiate.
Both Hamilton and Coats warn the economy is more fragile than it was in prior shutdowns. And Coats points out Congress had passed seven of the necessary 13 appropriations bills in 1995. This time, none of the spending bills has passed, which he notes means troops overseas could see their paychecks dry up.