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Posts tagged: federal shutdown

The federal shutdown of 1990

Some readers have taken issue with Sunday's column and whether a federal government shutdown ke the one we just experienced would have happened if Tom Foley were speaker.

There was a shutdown, after all, in October 1990, when Foley was speaker, several pointed out in the comments section. So clearly, to some weighing in on the main website, Sunday's column is either deliberately wrong or so misinformed as to be totally discounted for further consideration.

Some take issue mainly with the headline, which does say “never”. Reporters don't write headlines, but it would have been hard to fit a “shutdown like we just saw” in the space alloted. The blog column uses “showdown” which would have been a better noun. The column wasn't designed as a historical look at shutdowns and a point-by-point comparison, but here are a few things to consider:

At the end of September 1990,  Congress and President George H.W. Bush were debating spending cuts and tax increases. They'd been negotiating for several months but hadn't reached a compromise. On Sept. 30, a Sunday, the last day of the fiscal year, the Bush Administration and congressional leadership agreed on a package that would have cut $500 billion over 5 years, raised gasoline and beer taxes, reduced Medicare and farm subsidies. It had detractors from both parties, although Bush publicly suported it and Foley said it was a good compromise even though no one was going to be thrilled with it. Both tried to convince members of their party to vote yes over the next two days, although the more the public learned about the proposal, the more opposition it generated. During this time, the federal government continued to operate.

On Thursday of that week, the House rejected the compromise package on a bipartisan vote. On Friday, Bush said he would shutdown the government over the weekend. Monday of the following week was the Columbus Day holiday, so most federal offices were going to be closed for three days, and the main effects were felt at national parks and monuments.

Negotiators from Congress and the White House worked through the weekend to come up with a new package, which was approved by the House in a bipartisan vote sometime after midnight (Foley said he'd keep the House in session until they voted on the budget compromise and a plan to reopen the government) and passed later that day by the Senate. Federal employees reported for work on Tuesday morning.

So Congressional leadership and the White House agreed to a budget  compromise, it couldn't pass the House, so they worked out another compromise, and it passed. There was no discussion of not raising the debt limit during that dispute.

Whether this sounds remotely like 2013 shutdown is up to you. As the column said, in quoting members of Congress who served with Foley, he and Bush would've gotten together and worked something out. The accounts of 1990 suggests that's what happened back then, a testament not just to Foley but Bush senior, or put another way, a knock against both House Republican leadership and President Barack Obama.

Feel free to weigh in by clicking on Comments.

McMorris Rodgers: Obamacare ‘making life harder’ in E. Washington

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers hears lots of angst about Obamacare in Eastern Washington.

At least, that's what she says in a USA Today guest column defending the House Republicans in their move to link continued funding of the federal government to some changes in the Affordable Care Act.

“No matter where I go when I'm home in Eastern Washington — the grocery store, the local coffee shop, the county fair — the concern is the same: Obamacare is making life harder for everyday Americans. At the doctor's office, the dinner table and in the job market. “ ” she wrote in a counterpoint to the newspaper, which criticized House Republicans.

A skeptic would probably point out that McMorris Rodgers most recent visit to the home district was pretty much designed so she would mostly hear criticisms of the new law. A playbook for House Republicans returning home for the August recess (they prefer “work period”) advised members to hold an Obamacare Media Tour “to emphasize the need to repeal Obamacare to protect employees, small businesses and jobs.” Such events were to be peopled with like-minded folks, so the opportunity to hear something other than a discouraging word about the new law at those gatherings was pretty limited.

The forward to this “Planning Kit” was written by McMorris Rodgers herself, so it's a good bet she followed it closely.

The congresswoman did hold a “y'all come” town hall meeting in Spokane during that recess, but by most accounts the reaction to the Affodable Care Act was mixed, with some people unhappy with it, and others unhappy with McMorris Rodgers and her fellow Republicans for repeatedly trying to repeal it.

Yesterday she sent out a tweet noting problems on the opening day for Washington state's health care exchange, where people without insurance can sign up for plans, “#ObamaCare exchanges open today and #WA State's website isn't even working. Precursor to the complications to come,” she wrote.


The tweet was time stamped at 7 a.m., which was before state officials said the website was supposed to open. The exchange did have problems later in the day, but for reasons that somewhat undercut her statement about people being so concerned about the program. The system was slow or crashed at times because so many people were trying to go online to sign up.

Figures released Wednesday from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange showed that the web site had 170,487 page views and the call center fielded 6,199 calls. It established 6,385 accounts.

The system is still having problems — it's being taken down from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday for maintenance — and it would be a fair criticism that one might've expected better from the nearly $55 million contract Deloitte received to build it. But it seems fair to say that at least some people think the new law is going to make their lives easier.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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