Conservative Reformers: The Republican Freshmen and the Lessons of the 104th Congress

By Nicol C. Rae | Go to book overview

4
A Lesson in Political Reality: The 1995-96 Budget Battle

There are three essential reasons to balance the federal budget. First, it is morally the right thing to do. Second, it is financially the right thing to do. Third, each of us has a personal stake in it. In fact, your personal stake is probably a lot bigger than you realize.1

Newt Gingrich

As mentioned at the conclusion of the previous chapter, a balanced federal budget was the keystone of the Republican legislative agenda in the 104th Congress. This renewed emphasis on fiscal rectitude was in conformity with the Republican Party's heritage. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the balanced budget had been regarded not only as one of the essential tenets of classical economics but also as a moral imperative for a party grounded in North American Calvinist Protestantism. Even the shock of the New Deal and the prevalence of less strict fiscal policies had not shaken the fundamental Republican faith in a balanced budget. Republican Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford all placed the balanced budget at the center of their domestic policy agendas, and conservative Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, such as Robert Taft, Everett Dirksen, and, latterly, Robert Dole, railed against the fiscal profligacy of congressional Democrats and Democratic presidents, even as they accepted the substance of the New Deal interventionist state.

It should be added, however, that since the New Deal era this emphasis on fiscal conservatism had hardly served the Republicans well electorally. Republican strictures against government spending and their willingness to inflict tax raises and government spending cuts on voters reinforced the GOP's image as the party of hard-faced business-

-96-

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Conservative Reformers: The Republican Freshmen and the Lessons of the 104th Congress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables and Figures vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1- Sir Raymon Rodriguez - The Trouble with Congress 3
  • 3 - The Republican Revolution: Institutional Reform And Passing the Contract 62
  • 4 - A Lesson in Political Reality: The 1995-96 Budget Battle 96
  • 5 - The Neglected Revolutionaries: Republican Senate Freshmen In the 104th Congress 131
  • Conclusion 163
  • 6 - The Struggle for Reelection 168
  • Conclusion 197
  • 7 - Conclusion 198
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 247
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