The O'Neill-Reagan era: When Washington was closed but open

  • Article by: Joseph A. Morris
  • Updated: October 3, 2013 - 6:52 PM

Contrary to popular belief, a shutdown is nothing new. In the 1980s, there were several. The difference was that President Ronald Reagan negotiated.

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pumiceOct. 3, 13 7:15 PM

Another perspective from Chapter 11 of Deficit and the Public Interest: "Trying to rally grassroots support for his budget, the President declared that he had a plan but his opponents did not. 'To the paid political complainers,' he proclaimed in Indianapolis, 'let me say as politely as I can, "Put up or shut up." So they did. Most significantly, Senator Hollings proposed to eliminate the July 1982 tax cut, reduce taxes by only 5 percent in 1983, freeze all domestic (including Social Security) spending at FY82 levels, and increase defense by only 3 percent in real dollars annually. Howard Baker immediately praised Hollings's plan. Republicans such as Slade Gorton of Washington, Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota, and Domenici began drafting possible compromises; Hollings could be used as a lever to move Reagan. Iowa's Representative Jim Leach, a leading gypsy moth, explained: 'The President's budget was dead in its tracks the day it was delivered. Conservatives rejected it on the ground that the deficit was too large, and the liberals on the ground that its priorities were askew.'"

Among Democrats' priorities were a jobs bill, education, funding for water projects and civil-rights legislation. Republican priorities included tax cuts, military spending and tough on crime legislation. The deficit tripled. Workers and small businesspeople took the hit--particularly middle class workers and small businesspeople.

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dahdahOct. 3, 13 7:21 PM

One difference, among many, is that Obamacare is law, passed years ago and partially in effect, while Reagan's "Star Wars" program was only on the drawing boards. Tip O'Neil could stand for his goals (more money for civil rts. and education) at that time, whereas John ("Shut it Down") Kline and Eric ("Me Too") Paulsen have no goals even remotely similar to Reagan's.

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pumiceOct. 3, 13 7:50 PM

From the article: "[Both sides] understood that it was perfectly legitimate for both a President and Congress to use spending fights as a forum for the resolution of policy disputes." More than 40 times, Joseph Morris? You have an example of a Reagan initiative passed by Congress which House Democrats voted to repeal 42 times? Then tried to defund it as part of the budget debate? Then tried to delay its implementation?

And while you're here, Mr. Morris: In 1982 when House Democrats sent over a budget to the Senate, who wrote the amended version (TEFRA, which raised taxes), guided it through the Republican-controlled Senate, sent it back to the House, and got Pres. Reagan's signature?

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liora51Oct. 3, 13 9:13 PM

Another difference is that O'Neill and Reagan were both Irish Americans from the same age cohort. And the Democrats may have not liked Reagan, but they never vowed he'd be a one term president and they never treated him with the contempt that they treat Obama.

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getcrazyOct. 3, 13 9:25 PM

The Democrats didn't try to remove legislation by defunding it. Republicans can sit back all day long and say the Democrats are causing the shutdown but everyone knows the Democrats are not causing the shutdown. The Republicans will slowly lose the House as well because they are so out of touch with minorities, women, the middle class, poor people, half the rich people, animals, dead ancestors, rocks, dirt... The Republicans are pretty much out of touch with everything. They're just voice boxes for extremists with money.

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hobie2Oct. 3, 1310:42 PM

MX missile? How did that funding work out for us?

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mdachsOct. 3, 1311:23 PM

"Another difference is that O'Neill and Reagan were both Irish Americans from the same age cohort. And the Democrats may have not liked Reagan, but they never vowed he'd be a one term president and they never treated him with the contempt that they treat Obama." Do you really attribute Reagan's and O'Neill's ability to reach compromises on the fact that they were old Irish Americans??? No, they both understood how the executive and legislative branches could work together to achieve shared goals, even though they represented different parties. Regarding contempt and the vow to have a one-term presidency, Reagan never shoved a 3,000+page bill (Obamacare) down the throats of the legislators and have his GOP leaders tell the legislators to vote for it and read what it says later. Obama has earned the contempt he draws. And last, just think about the contempt displayed towards George W. Bush!

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i812b4Oct. 4, 1312:06 AM

2014 the GOP will lose 20 seats in the house and the Dems will lose 2 seats in the Senate just to make things interesting. You heard it here first!

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elmore1Oct. 4, 13 5:42 AM

Good article. The key being maturity and compromise, we have neither today.

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windigolakeOct. 4, 13 6:01 AM

mdachs === Reagan never shoved a 3,000+page bill (Obamacare) down the throats of the legislators ==== There you go again with that "throat" thing the righties are so fond of. You must have overlooked all the negotiations and the many amendments put forward by the GOP? Based on your version of how things went, the GOP must have shoved those down Obama's throat.

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