The Politics of Budget Negotiations and 1990

My name is Alan He and I am currently in Hamilton, New York attending Colgate University, where I am a senior majoring in political science.

This summer I was on Capitol Hill with CBS News covering Congress. Besides the Anthony Weiner scandal which occurred early into my internship, I spent most of my time following the debt ceiling crisis and the ensuing negotiations. One consistent talking point that Members of both parties reiterated at every opportunity was the notion of putting country above politics, above party, and reelection. Another thing that struck me was the reoccurring collapse of inter-branch high level budget negotiations with the Republican leaders and Vice President Biden, and the talks between the Speaker and the President.

On those notes, I will be writing about budget politics and negotiations between Presidents and Congresses, with a particular focus on the 1990 negotiations that occurred between George H.W. Bush and the Democratic Congress. My main emphasis will be on examining the evolution of the communications and political side of federal budgeting. The most famous aspect of the 1990 negotiation was President Bush’s decision to renege on his “no new taxes” promise. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform recently commented, bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

“Nobody understands that when President Bush agreed to that, it was the biggest act of courage that any president had ever done. We had to do this for the good of the country.”

Today many economists and pundits credit the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act as one of the main factors, along with the economic boom that occurred later that decade, which resulted in large budget surpluses. However at the time, Bush was attacked by conservative Republicans for capitulating, and still was portrayed by many democrats as uncompromising.  Bush’s sacrifice and his 1992 defeat would help reinforce an anti-tax axiom in Republican politics which have had a huge impact on our current budget debates and on budget politics.


About alanhe802

Colgate University 2012 Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency
This entry was posted in Campaigns, Communication and Elections and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Politics of Budget Negotiations and 1990

  1. Jonathan Robinson says:

    Interesting approach, though I would not focus so much on outward communications as signaling amongst leaders. I would wager that much public posturing on the debt ceiling etc did not matter as much as the internal negotiating and that much of the posturing did not drive that internal negotiations. What they say to each other on the other hand should matter.

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