Shutdowns past and present compared by TN congressmen

Tennessee congressmen serving in the last federal government shutdown reminisce and compare the 1995-96 partial closure with the 2013 edition in a piece by Andy Sher.

Only one of those quoted, Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. of Knoxville, is still serving. He says that the two events are similar in state people in his district “really didn’t seem to notice that much” and “slowdown” would be a better descriptive word than shutdown.

Former congressmen quoted include Republicans Zach Wamp of Chattanooga and Van Hilleary, then of Dayton, and Democrat Bob Clement of Nashville.


“The biggest difference is we [Republicans] had the House and the Senate” in 1995 and 1996, Wamp said. Congress presented a united front against Clinton and it was “a very different process.”

…Wamp and Clement agree that part of the problem is the quality of leadership in Washington today.

House Republicans’ confrontation was “ill-conceived from the beginning,” Wamp said, citing Republican Sen. John McCain’s initial warning that they didn’t hold a winning hand.

Wamp said he’s no fan of Obama and faults him for pushing health reform through without a single Republican vote, but “everybody really knows that holding up the continuing resolution wouldn’t work” to derail it. Wamp pointed specifically at Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who went along with tea party members’ demands for the strategy.

…Wamp and Clement also said drawing congressional district boundaries that favor a single party favors the extremes over the middle. Wamp noted that in 2012, only 10 Republicans were elected in congressional districts won by Obama and only 10 Democrats in districts won by Republican Mitt Romney.

…In 1995, Hilleary said, House Republicans “gave a lot of credence” to their new speaker, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who led them into the confrontation with Clinton.
“I felt that if we did it we needed to hang with it. But we did kind of get the worst of both worlds,” Hilleary said.

…In Hilleary’s view, Republicans in 1996 “swam halfway across the river” and then stopped. And “after the government opened up we never really regained the momentum on shrinking the size of government,” he said.

Today’s House Republicans risk stalling in midstream too, Hilleary noted.
“Whether it was a good idea or not is to be determined,” he said of House Republicans today. “But the thing is if they decide to pull the trigger … if they don’t ride it out, it’ll be the same situation. They don’t win anything and they get bludgeoned.