What We Can Learn From Past Government Shutdowns It's Day 18 of the partial government shutdown, and it's now the third-longest on record. In the 90s, it took President Clinton and House Speaker Gingrich a record 21 days to settle an impasse.
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What We Can Learn From Past Government Shutdowns

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What We Can Learn From Past Government Shutdowns

What We Can Learn From Past Government Shutdowns

What We Can Learn From Past Government Shutdowns

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It's Day 18 of the partial government shutdown, and it's now the third-longest on record. In the 90s, it took President Clinton and House Speaker Gingrich a record 21 days to settle an impasse.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is Day 18 of the partial federal government shutdown, making it one of the longest in history. Back in the 1990s, it took President Bill Clinton and the Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich a record 21 days to settle an impasse. NPR's Don Gonyea looks back at how past shutdowns have been resolved and why it may prove harder this time.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Say it's 1984, October. You're wondering about job openings in the federal government. You dial a number.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The Federal Job Information Center is now closed until further notice due to lack of appropriated funds.

GONYEA: That tape aired on NPR more than 34 years ago, and that part of this story hasn't changed all that much. A partial government shutdown - services deemed non-essential stop. And something else holds true. Blame the other party. Here's then-President Ronald Reagan.

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RONALD REAGAN: This has been typical of what has happened ever since we've been here. And you can lay this right on the majority party in the House of Representatives.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: But there are some big differences between those early government shutdowns and what we see today.

DAVID ROHDE: They tended to revolve around bargaining over, basically, routine governmental activities.

GONYEA: That's David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University. He says, back then, if Congress missed the deadline, then there'd be a short shutdown but with the understanding and expectation that a compromise could be readily found. But then came the fall and winter of 1995 and '96. Bill Clinton was president.

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BILL CLINTON: The government is partially shutting down.

GONYEA: Republicans had control of the House for the first time in 40 years. Newt Gingrich was the speaker and wanted deep budget cuts. President Clinton said he was committed to a balanced budget but not using the Republicans' numbers.

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CLINTON: Congress has failed to pass the straightforward legislation necessary to keep the government running without imposing sharp hikes in Medicare premiums and deep cuts in education and the environment.

GONYEA: Gingrich responded...

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NEWT GINGRICH: And we think all the president has to do is commit to a seven-year balanced budget with honest numbers and an honest scoring system.

ROHDE: That pair of shutdowns was for a different reason and had a different pattern than the ones that happened before.

GONYEA: David Rohde of Duke says the clash was about ideology, the role of government. And there was no easy solution. The government partially closed for seven days. That was followed by a second 21-day shutdown, the longest to date, that ran into the new year. Eventually, it became clear that the public was not behind Gingrich. Senate leader Bob Dole, a fellow Republican, signaled the end in this floor speech on New Year's Eve.

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BOB DOLE: We ought to end this. I mean, it's gotten to the point where it's a little ridiculous as far as this senator is concerned.

GONYEA: The GOP paid a political price, and that shutdown was a cautionary tale for years. In fact, after that, there wasn't another shutdown until 2013, when Republicans used budget negotiations to try to defund the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare. It didn't work. Democrats, meanwhile, drove a very brief shutdown early last year over DACA legislation. They backed down quickly, which brings us to today. David Rohde says it's a lot like 1995 with one difference. Back then, he says, everyone was seeking the support of moderate and centrist voters.

ROHDE: But Trump's calculation, politically, is not about the center of the electorate. That's the difference.

GONYEA: The president seems to be playing solely to his hard core base supporters. That makes negotiations even more difficult.

Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRHYME SONG, "DAT SOUND GOOD (FEAT. AB-SOUL AND MAC MILLER)")

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