The Clinton Administration


After the Gulf War victory, President Bush's popularity soared. A troubled economy, however, hurt Bush's reelection chances for 1992 and encouraged challengers to enter the race. The Democrats nominated Arkansas governor Bill Clinton to run against President Bush. Clinton chose Tennessee senator Al Gore as his running mate. The Clinton campaign focused on the economy and the high unemployment rate.


Unhappy with "politics as usual," many Americans did not want to vote for either Bush or Clinton. A grassroots movement - people organizing at the local level around the nation - put Texas businessman H. Ross Perot on the ballot as a third-party candidate. Perot stressed the need to end the government's deficit spending, or spending more money than it takes in.

Americans elected Clinton, the first president born after World War II. Clinton received 43 percent of the popular vote, Bush 38 percent, and Perot 19 percent. Clinton received less than a majority of the votes because of Perot's strong showing, the highest percentage of popular votes for any third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.


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The Task: Part 2


Clinton's Domestic Program

One of the new president's goals was reducing the budget deficit - the amount by which spending exceeds revenue. Clinton proposed cutting government spending, raising taxes for middle and upper-income Americans, and providing tax credits to the poorest. Most Republicans in Congress opposed this plan, but it narrowly passed.

Clinton faced even stronger opposition to his plan for health-care reform. His goal was to control rising health-care costs and provide adequate health insurance for every American. The president named the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to head the task force.

Congress rejected the Clinton plan, calling it too expensive and too reliant on government control. Later, Congress did pass a number of measures that provided more health-care protection for workers who changed jobs, the elderly, children, and other groups not covered.

During his first term, President Clinton won some legislative battles. Despite strong opposition, the president succeeded in passing the Brady Bill of 1993. The law imposed a waiting period and background checks for handgun purchases. The 1994 crime bill banned 19 kinds of assault weapons and provided for 100,000 new police officers.

Another Clinton proposal that became law was the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. It permitted workers to take time off from their jobs for special fam­ily situations.


Contract with America

Before the 1994 congressional elections, a group of Republicans crafted a new plan of action. Led by Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia, congressional Republicans declared a Contract with America to...

~~return to the basic values that had built the country: work and family and the recognition of a higher moral authority.~~

In the contract, Republicans promised to reduce the federal government, balance the budget, lower taxes, and reform how Congress operates. They also pledged to pass laws to reduce crime, reform welfare, and strengthen the family.

The result was a strong Republican victory in the 1994 elections. For the first time in 40 years, the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. In their first hundred days in office, the Republicans passed many parts of the Contract with America.

Congress passed a line-item veto bill. Intended as a way to reduce wasteful spending, the line-item veto allowed the president to cancel any individual items within a spending bill. The Supreme Court later overturned the law. It ruled that such an increase in the president's power could be granted only through a consti­tutional amendment.

Other parts of the Contract with America were also rejected. Some proposals stalled in the Senate, and President Clinton vetoed several Republican bills on welfare reform and the budget. Clinton argued that budget cuts would hurt elderly people on Medicare, damage the environment, and damage education.


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Budget Problems and Compromise

Disagreement between the president and congressional Republicans continued. A major dispute blocked passage of the 1996 budget, causing the federal government to run out of money. The government shut down nonessential services twice for a total of 27 days. Congress and the president recognized that compromise was needed.

Both the Republicans in Congress and President Clinton proposed plans for a balanced budget. The president also pushed for an increase in the minimum wage and sponsored a welfare reform bill that set a work requirement for people receiving benefits and put a five-year time limit on benefits.

Clinton Wins a Second Term

The Republicans hoped to recapture the White House in 1996. However, passage of the Brady Act and the Crime Act weakened Republican arguments that Clinton was soft on crime. Most important, the economy was healthy and unemployment was at a 30-year low. President Clinton easily won reelection, beating the Republican candidate, former Senate majority leader Robert Dole.

The American economy continued to grow. One measure of this growth is the gross domestic product (GDP), which is the value of all the goods and services produced in a nation in a year. In 1996 and 1997, the GDP grew by about 4 percent a year-one of the highest rates of growth since the post-World War II boom.

The economy's growth increased the amount of tax money the government received. At the same time, the president and Congress cut back the size of the federal budget. The federal budget is prepared for a fiscal year-a 12-month plan­ning period. The 1998 fiscal year ended with a federal budget surplus - the amount of money remaining after all expenditures - of about $80 billion. It was the first surplus in three decades.

Under Investigation


In 1994 legal questions arose relating to real estate investments Clinton had made while governor of Arkansas. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed an independent counsel to investigate the president. Kenneth Starr, a former federal judge, led the investigation. As other scandals were exposed, Starr widened the scope of the investigation.

In early 1998 a new scandal emerged involving a personal relationship between the president and a White House intern. Evidence suggested that the president may have commit­ted perjury, or lied under oath, about the relationship. In September, Starr sent a report to Congress claiming that President Clinton had committed perjury and obstructed justice in an effort to conceal the personal relationship.

The House of Representatives voted to hold hearings to decide whether to impeach the president, in response to Starr's report. To impeach is to make a formal accusation of wrongdoing against a public official. The House scheduled the hearings for November, following the 1998 congressional elections.

With Clinton in trouble, the Republicans expected to make major gains in the 1998 elections. Instead, the Democrats gained 5 seats in the House, although they still trailed the Republicans 223 to 211. The Senate remained unchanged, with 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. Incumbents - the current officeholders - did extremely well in the 1998 elections.


Although there was general agreement that the president had lied, Congress was divided over whether his actions justified impeachment. Clinton's supporters argued that his offenses did not qualify as "high crimes and misdemeanors," as stated in the Constitution. Clinton's accusers insisted that the "rule of law" is a fundamental principle of American society, and that the president should be held accountable if his actions were illegal.

On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment, one for perjury and one for obstruction of justice. With this action, Bill Clinton became only the second president ever to be impeached. The case moved to the Senate for trial. A two-thirds majority Senate vote is needed to convict and remove a president from office.

On February 12, 1999, the senators cast their votes. The result was 45 guilty to 55 not guilty on the perjury article, and 50 guilty to 50 not guilty on the obstruction of justice article.

Acquitted of both charges, Bill Clinton had survived the challenge to his presidency.

Foreign Policy

Even as the nation struggled with domestic issues, international matters presented new challenges. Important decisions faced American policy­makers on defining the nation's role in the post-Cold War world.

In 1993 Clinton persuaded Congress to rat­ify the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Under NAFTA the United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed to eliminate trade barriers among the three nations. NAFTA opponents feared a loss of U.S. jobs. Farmers also feared NAFTA, saying that low­priced Mexican produce would undercut American goods. Supporters argued that the treaty would lower prices for American consumers and expand markets.


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Middle East Peace Accords

In September 1993 President Clinton invited Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to the White House for the signing of a historic agreement between the two leaders. Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, and the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist. The agreement created a plan for limited Palestinian self-government over certain areas in Israel.

Opposition to the plan emerged on both sides and the violence continued. In 1995 an Israeli extremist assassinated Prime Minister Rabin. In 2001 Ariel Sharon, the new Israeli prime minister, pledged to put Israel's security above the peace process. The region remained as far from peace as ever.

Peacekeeping in the Balkans

As you read earlier, civil war had erupted in the former Yugoslavia. Bitter fighting followed, especially in Bosnia, where Serbs engaged in ethnic cleansing-forcibly removing or killing members of the Muslim population. NATO air strikes on their positions brought Serbs to the bargaining table. The Clinton administration then led peace talks, which produced the Dayton Accords in December 1995.

In 1998 Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic attempted to drive the Muslims out of the Kosovo region. The United States and NATO launched air strikes against Serbia, until Serb troops withdrew from Kosovo and its Muslim population could return.


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The Task: Part 3