The Year of No Gridlock

November 26, 1993

George Bush vetoed Hatch Act amendments. Congress re-passed a bill this year and Bill Clinton signed it into law. Mr. Bush also vetoed a family leave bill and the "motor voter" registration bill, which were also re-passed this year and signed into law by Mr. Clinton. President Clinton approved by executive action the use of fetal tissue research and abortion counseling in the U.S. and by U.S.-supported international agencies -- all of which had been approved by Congress in the past and vetoed by President Bush.

Bill Clinton is the first president in a long time not to have to veto any legislation in his first year in office. George Bush vetoed 10 acts of Congress in 1989. Ronald Reagan cast two vetoes in 1981. Even in 1977, when there was a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Jimmy Carter vetoed two acts.

So it looks like gridlock is breaking up. One-party rule is working.

President Clinton is likely to get a campaign finance bill next year, since House and Senate passed different versions this year (similar to what President Bush once vetoed). Mr. Clinton got his deficit reduction bill without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate. He got NAFTA, though a majority of Democrats voted against him in both chambers. He got his pet national service bill enacted. He got his first Supreme Court nominee confirmed with only three negative votes.

In addition, Congress did nothing much that he strongly opposed. It denied him his own economic stimulus proposal, and it greatly compromised his effort to halt discrimination against gays in the military, but that is about it.

For many voters, the best of the year came on the last day. The ultimate symbol of gridlock and unresponsiveness, the previously unpassable Brady Bill, was sent to the president for signing. This plus an omnibus crime bill, if adequately financed and properly administered, will help fight the social cancer that is destroying so many neighborhoods.

The president says he is off to the best start since Ronald Reagan in 1981. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell says it is the most impressive start for a president and Congress since 1953. Congressional Quarterly says no president since Eisenhower in that year has won congressional support for as large a percentage of his proposals.

Even those who don't like all the White House-Congress achievements of 1993 had grudging praise. Newt Gingrich, the House Republican assistant leader, said, "You have to give him [the president] high marks." Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole gave him this backhanded compliment, "[He has done] a little too much, I think." All this by an administration that hit the ground stumbling back in January and was widely criticized for its Arkansas naivete and youthful arrogance. The question now is whether Mr. Clinton can build on these achievements for the bigger battles that lie ahead in his sophomore year.

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