ALBANY, Ga. -- With the possible shutdown of the federal government looming Friday at midnight, what lessons can be learned from the last shutdown in 1995?
Then, as now, a Republican-controlled House locked horns with a Democratic president over a deficit and budget cuts. In the end, Bill Clinton outflanked then-speaker Newt Gingrich during the 20-day shutdown in a battle for public opinion.
"There are some definite similarities from today to 1995," University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bulloch said Wednesday. "We have a Republican-led House and a Democratic president. Public opinion is pretty evenly split and, as in 1995, we have a presidential election coming up next year."
This year's budget impasse hinges on the amount of cuts the Democrats are willing to concede and the number the Republican House, spurred by freshman members and the tea party, are seeking.
Democrats are willing to accept $33 billion in discretionary spending cuts while the GOP is calling for $61 billion in cuts to help trim a $14 trillion deficit. The left is also taking issue with GOP policy riders that would defund Obamacare, EPA regulations, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio, among other things.
These riders are non-starters for the Democrats.
In 1995, the Republicans blamed Clinton while he blamed the Republicans, but public opinion favored Clinton.
"That period began the unraveling of Newt Gingrich," Bulloch said. "I haven't seen the latest numbers, but the last Pew Poll I looked at indicates a slight majority are blaming Congress for this situation -- just like 15 years ago."
The latest of two continuing resolutions to keep the government in business expires Friday. A third is highly unlikely.
In an interesting twist, if the government does shut down, the Internal Revenue Services said it will not issue refund checks as long as the closure lasts, but it will continue to accept tax payments.