The Fact Checker: hppoliticslede

Ted Cruz’s claim that the 1995-96 government shutdown was good for the GOP

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

“The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom in Washington that, ‘Oh, the [1995-96] shutdown was a political disaster for Republicans,’ is not borne out by the data.”

— Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), remarks at Heritage Foundation bloggers briefing, July 30, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing for a “last stand” on defunding the new health-care law, a.k.a. Obamacare, by picking a fight that would probably result in a government shutdown. His comment above has earned him some scorn from other Republicans, who do not remember the 1995-96 showdown so fondly.

At the Heritage event, Cruz actually spent about five minutes discussing why the conventional wisdom is wrong. (Go to the 29-minute mark.)

Watch live streaming video from heritagefoundation at

Here are his two key points:

1. A “government shutdown” is a misnomer, as it is simply the temporary suspension of nonessential government services, which, Cruz said, “happens every single week on the weekends.”

2. The consequences were mainly good. He attributed both the emergence of balanced budgets and the passage of welfare reform to “standing up for principle.” While House Republicans lost seats, they kept their majority. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans gained two seats, even as Bill Clinton won reelection.

This is certainly an interesting take on history. As it happens, The Fact Checker had a front row seat to this battle, covering it day after day, and there are a few facts that Cruz is glossing over. We have written previously on this, but perhaps it’s time for a refresher course.

The Facts

The government shutdown took place in two phases. The first lasted five days in November 1995, until the White House agreed to congressional demands to balance the budget within seven years. But talks on implementing that agreement failed, and the second shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6., 1996.

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