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September 30, 2013

More Context on Terrorist Attacks err... Temper Tantrums Government Shutdowns

A few days ago, the Editorial Staff posted a summary of 17 government shutdowns that rather undercuts the President's misrepresentation of this one as unprecedented or limited to budgetary issues. Glenn Kessler provides more context on the history of previous shutdowns:

In 1973, when Richard Nixon was president, Democrats in the Senate, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Walter Mondale (D-Minn.), sought to attach a campaign finance reform bill to the debt ceiling after the Watergate-era revelations about Nixon’s fundraising during the 1972 election. Their efforts were defeated by a filibuster, but it took days of debate and the lawmakers were criticized by commentators (and fellow lawmakers) for using “shotgun” tactics to try to hitch their pet cause to emergency must-pass legislation.

President Obama said that GOP lawmakers now are trying to “extort” repeal of the health care law via the debt limit, but that’s also what Democrats wanted to do with President Nixon, who opposed the campaign-finance reforms.

Indeed, Linda K. Kowalcky and Lance T. LeLoup wrote in a comprehensive study of the politics of the debt limit, for Public Administration Review, that “during this period, the genesis of a pattern developed that would eventually become full blown in the mid-1970s and 1980s: the use of the debt ceiling vote as a vehicle for other legislative matters.”

Previously, they noted, the debt limit bill had been linked to the mechanics of debt management, but now anything was fair game. Major changes in Social Security were attached to the debt bill; another controversial amendment sought to end the bombing in Cambodia. Kowalcky and LeLoup list 25 nongermane amendments that were attached to debt-limit bills between 1978 and 1987, including allowing voluntary school prayer, banning busing to achieve integration and proposing a nuclear freeze.

In 1982, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker unleashed a free-for-all by allowing 1,400 nongermane amendments to the debt ceiling legislation, which resulted in five weeks of raucous debate that mostly focused on limiting federal court jurisdiction over school payer and busing. The debt limit only passed after lawmakers decided to strip all of the amendments from the bill.

One of the most striking examples of a president being forced to accept unrelated legislation on a debt-ceiling bill took place in 1980. The House and Senate repealed a central part of President Jimmy Carter’s energy policy — an oil import fee that was expected to raise the cost of gasoline by 10 cents a gallon. Carter vetoed the bill, even though the United States was close to default, and then the House and Senate overrode his veto by overwhelming numbers (335-34 in the House; 68-10 in the Senate).

So much for the "unprecedented" part of the President's latest whopper. The suggestion that once passed, laws can neither be defunded nor repealed is likewise demonstrably false:

...the implication from Democrats that once a bill becomes a law, it is as indelible as the Ten Commandments, etched into rock by the hand of God Himself, is precious when we consider the source. The Democrats, after all, mounted a 10-year campaign against the “Bush tax cuts,” and did so despite defeat after defeat on the issue. Those tax cuts joined a long line of laws that the country later substantially revised or repealed entirely. A partial list includes: the Clinton tax increases, portions of the Reagan tax cuts, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, portions of the Kennedy tax cuts, the gold standard, portions of the National Labor Relations Act, Prohibition, the direct election of senators, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, innumerable tariff schedules set during the 19th century, the three-fifths clause, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise, the Second Bank of the United States, the original rules of the Electoral College, the Articles of Confederation, and, of course, the rule of King George III.

The Second Bank of the United States is a particularly instructive case. There, Andrew Jackson effectively did away with the bank not by repealing the law outright, but rather by defunding the institution, stripping it of its federal deposits and sending them to his cronies in state banks. No less a liberal eminence than Ted Kennedy cited Jackson’s bank veto message in his famed “The Dream Shall Never Die” speech at the 1980 Democratic convention. But as Democrats gather for their annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners to complain about the perfidy of Republican efforts to defund Obamacare, it is unlikely they’ll mention the actions of their party’s founder. Also likely to be left unmentioned is Harry Reid’s flirtation with the movement to defund the Iraq war.

Too funny.

Posted by Cassandra at September 30, 2013 05:12 AM

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As I recall, slavery was The Law once, too.

Posted by: DL Sly at September 30, 2013 04:19 PM

Must note that few modern Dems would accept any positive connection and/or reference to the Ten Commandments . . .

Posted by: CAPT Mike at September 30, 2013 09:32 PM