The 1990s and President Clinton
The 1990s and President Clinton
Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 in a three-way campaign with Bush and Ross Perot, who ran on the Independent ticket. Clinton’s presidency included some notable successes, despite Congressional gridlock and scandals calling his morality into question.
Legislative Struggles
Bill Clinton struggled to push his domestic reform package through an antagonistic Congress, which was controlled by conservatives after the midterm elections of 1994. His most notable failure came in the realm of healthcare, when Congress blocked his efforts to create a national healthcare system. Clinton did manage to push an anti-crime bill and a welfare reform bill through Congress, but both were modified from his proposals and represented exceptions to the trend of his administration’s legislative defeats. Political divisiveness over the budget peaked in late 1995, when the Republican Congress twice shut down the government because it could not agree on a budget. The shutdown hurt the Republicans’ public image, however, and boosted Clinton’s. In this newly supportive atmosphere, Clinton was able to revise the welfare system and increase the minimum wage.
Economic and Foreign Policy
Perhaps the most important achievements of Bill Clinton’s presidency were the balancing of the federal budget and a return to economic prosperity. Clinton’s economic policies at home were mirrored by efforts to strengthen the U.S. economy through integration in the global economy. In November 1993, the House passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), eliminating most trade barriers with Mexico and Canada. During Clinton’s eight years in office, the United States experienced the most powerful economic expansion in the history of the United States.
Clinton was harangued throughout his first campaign for president and his time in office by accusations and rumors of sexual misconduct. The accusations came to a head in August 1998, when Clinton testified in front of a grand jury that he had not engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Later, he was forced to admit that he had. In December 1998, the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton became only the second president to be impeached, the first being Andrew Johnson in 1868. In February 1999, the Senate defeated both articles of impeachment. Clinton remained in office, but the scandal overshadowed the rest of his presidency. Many pundits believe that Clinton’s scandals helped pave the way for the victory of Republican George W. Bush in the heavily disputed 2000 presidential election.
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