On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton all but dared congressional Republicans to shut down the government.
“They ought to go back and read history because, I will just say, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Democrats, if they tried to shut the government down. We have seen this movie before and it didn’t work out very well for those who were obstructionist.”
The comments were a reference the government shutdown of 1995, when a band of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by then–House speaker Newt Gingrich, were unable to come to a budget agreement with the Clinton White House. The public blamed the shutdown on the GOP, and the resulting disapproval helped Bill Clinton win reelection and see a pick-up of seats in the House.
Hillary Clinton made her comments to CNN host Sanjay Gupta, during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative while at the same time Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas, stood on the floor of the Senate and urged his colleagues not to waver in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, even if it meant shutting down the government, a move that Clinton said was foolish.
“This president is not going to agree to defund health care,” she said. “If they want to shut the government down, that is on their head.”
Clinton said that Republicans should act as Democrats did during the passage of Medicare Part D, a signature health achievement of George W. Bush, which was meant to lower prescription drug prices. Democrats disagreed with the bill, she said, and “if you go back and look, [the bill] was even more unpopular than Affordable Care.”
“But you didn’t have obstructionist members of Congress. Once the vote was taken and once all the challengers were done, people said, ‘OK, let’s see if it works and if it needs to be tweaked, if you need to make some regulatory changes, OK, let’s do that.’”
Clinton conceded that “nobody is saying that it is the perfect bill,” but pointed to other large pieces of social legislation, including Social Security and Medicare, which had similar glitches, similar legislative battles, but were considered settled law once they were passed and all of the challenges ran their course. Republicans, she said, were afraid that once the bill passed it would prove too popular to undo.
“If they want to shut the government down, that is on their head.”
“That is what some of the critics are most worried about. People will find out, ‘My gosh, we can actually do this. We better stop it before there is real-world experience teaching people how to work the system to the benefit of themselves and their families.’ That is what is really behind this.”
Clinton’s appearance on the panel was something of a homecoming. Gupta, she said, was a White House fellow assigned to the Office of the First Lady when Clinton was there. Gupta began the discussion by saying he intended to ask about the “TBD” portion of her Twitter bio, believed to be a winking reference to her future plans to run for president.
In the end, he didn’t, asking Clinton instead if she thought it was important for there to be a woman president.
Clinton said she thought it was.