Five differences between the 1996 and 2013 shutdowns

October 17, 2013
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Congress on Wednesday reached a deal to reopen the government, ending a 16-day shutdown with an agreement to lift the debt ceiling and fund operations through the end of the year.

President Obama signed the legislation early Thursday morning, and the White House Office of Management and Budget told federal employees to prepare for a return to work.

Now that the 2013 shutdown is a thing of the past, let’s compare it with the last two closures, which took place during the Clinton administration. Here are some key differences between the events:

* This one was shorter (so far): The 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days. The longest lapse in funding occurred during President Clinton’s tenure, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. It lasted 21 days, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996.

Prior to that, the government closed down from Nov. 13-19, 1995, after Clinton vetoed a Republican spending plan.

It’s worth noting that another Obama administration shutdown could occur in early 2014 if Congress and the White House find themselves in another budgeting stalemate.

* No White House sex scandal: The White House tasked its interns with more duties during the 1995 and 1996 shutdown. One of those workers, Monica Lewinsky, testified that she started a relationship with Clinton on Day Two of the first closure. There are no public accounts of a budding extramarital romance for Obama.

* No stop-and-go: The Clinton-era shutdowns occurred virtually back-to-back. In the first instance, the government closed for five days before the White House agreed to congressional demands to balance the budget within seven years. A second drawdown occurred after talks on implementing that agreement failed, causing the government to close down for another 21 days.

Again, it’s worth noting that Congress and the White House could drag the government back into shutdown mode if they don’t agree to another spending deal in early 2014.

* No fight over healthcare legislation: One of the sticking points in the latest budget negotiations was the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Many Republicans insisted on altering the law — mainly by delaying some of its requirements — as a condition of funding the government.

No such fight took place during the Clinton years. Although the White House explored ideas for overhauling the healthcare system during that time, no comprehensive changes took effect.

No pre-shutdown appropriations: Congress passed seven appropriations bills, including for the Department of Defense, before the Clinton-era closures. As such, many government functions remained open that time around.

This year, lawmakers passed fewer spending measures before the shutdown, leaving more programs without the necessary funding to continue. Congress did agree, however, to fund the military and its civilian employees.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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