Presidency of Bill Clinton

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Presidency of Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton.jpg
Official portrait
42nd President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
Vice President Al Gore
Preceded by George H. W. Bush
Succeeded by George W. Bush
42nd Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 11, 1983 – December 12, 1992
Lieutenant Winston Bryant
Jim Tucker
Preceded by Frank White
Succeeded by Jim Tucker
40th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 9, 1979 – January 19, 1981
Lieutenant Joe Purcell
Preceded by Joe Purcell
As Acting Governor
Succeeded by Frank White
50th Attorney General of Arkansas
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 9, 1979
Governor David Pryor
Joe Purcell (Acting)
Preceded by Jim Tucker
Succeeded by Steve Clark
Personal details
Born William Jefferson Blythe III
(1946-08-19) August 19, 1946 (age 75)
Hope, Arkansas
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Hillary Rodham (1975-present)
Children 1; Chelsea
Alma mater Georgetown University
University College, Oxford
Yale Law School
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Baptist

The United States Presidency of Bill Clinton, also known as the Clinton administration, was the executive branch of the federal government of the United States from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001. Clinton was the first president elected after the end of the Cold War, the first Baby Boomer president, and the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve two full terms.


In the 1992 presidential election, Clinton defeated incumbent Republican president George H.W. Bush to become the first Democratic president since Jimmy Carter left office in 1981. Clinton took office with Democratic majorities in both houses, and attempted to pass an ambitious health care reform bill. Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1994 and retained that control throughout Clinton's presidency, but Clinton won reelection in 1996. The administration had a mixed record on taxes but produced the first federal budget surpluses since 1969, for fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001,[1] leading to a decrease in the public debt (though the gross federal debt continued to increase).[2][3][4] Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, a major free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, and he signed the agreement into law in 1994. His presidency saw the passage of welfare reform in Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children and reduced the number of welfare programs,[5] which received support from both political parties. He also signed the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act, an act which was designed to prevent financial institutions from getting too big to fail.[6] He also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act which legalized over-the-counter derivatives.[7]

Socially, the administration began with efforts by Clinton to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, which culminated in a compromise known as "Don't ask, don't tell", allowing (at a statutory level) gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they did not disclose their sexual orientation. The policy remained in effect until it was repealed in 2010. Clinton became the first President to appoint open gays to his Administration, issued executive orders ending the ban on security clearance for LGBT workers[8] and banning any job discrimination based on sexual orientation in civilian public sector employment[9] (he unsuccessfully lobbied for the private sector Employment Non-Discrimination Act), and dramatically increased federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention-research-treatment. However Clinton also signed the Defense of Marriage Act; while it came to his desk with a veto-proof majority, Clinton's failure to veto DOMA was considered by many to be a blow to the LGBT rights movement.[10] Various measures were also introduced to improve the effectiveness of the social safety net, including an increase in the number of child care places, a significant expansion of the EITC program, and the introduction of new programs such as SCHIP and a child tax credit.[11]

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, the first law that Clinton signed, ensured parents could take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or a sick relative without risking their job. Over the next eight years, more than 35 million workers took advantage of the protections of this law. That same year, the Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded to give a larger benefit to working families and allow childless workers to benefit as well. In 1996, Congress passed a 20% increase in the minimum wage, which boosted earnings for nearly 10 million Americans. As part of the Clinton Administration’s welfare reforms, over 200,000 people on welfare received housing vouchers to help them move closer to jobs, while a welfare-to-work tax credit encouraged businesses to hire long-term welfare recipients.[12][13] In addition, communities received federal support to design transportation solutions to help low-income workers get to work. Better housing and nutritional support was provided for low-income families, with Congress (under Clinton’s watch) increasing federal support for several critical nutritional and housing support programs. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children went from average annual funding levels of $2.7 billion in the eight years before Clinton took office to $3.9 billion under his presidency, while the Food Stamp program went from an average of $21.3 billion a year to $24.9 billion. In terms of housing, funding for federal housing assistance grew from an average of $20.4 billion a year in the eight years before Clinton’s term to an average of $29 billion a year during his presidency. In 1993, AmeriCorps was established, a community service program that provided young people with an opportunity to serve their communities and earn money for college or skills training. In just five years, nearly 200,000 young people were enrolled in the program. In 1997, a child tax credit was introduced that directly reduced a family’s income tax bill by $500 per eligible child. In addition, federal funding for the Head Start program rose from $3.3 billion (in constant 2000 dollars) to $5.3 billion in 2000.[14]

Additionally, greater funds were allocated to education. Federal funding for primary and secondary education rose from an average of $8.5 billion (in the eight years before Clinton's inauguration) to $11.1 billion. This increase was supported by the Improving America’s Schools Act, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to improve accountability in schools by helping low-income students and allowing for the incorporation of technology into curricula so every student could benefit from the technological revolution. Federal support for higher education was expanded, with the maximum Pell Grant award increased and funding levels for student financial assistance increased by 20% by the end of Clinton’s term. Also, the 1993 Student Loan Reform Act introduced direct federal student loans, leading to lower borrowing costs for students and billions in savings for the federal government.

In 1997, two tax credits were passed to help defray the costs of higher education: the Hope Scholarship tax credit and the Lifetime Learning tax credit. Federal funding for scientific research was boosted, with funding for the National Science Foundation increased by more than 30%, and the annual budget for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science nearly doubled to $2.8 billion.[14] The GEAR UP college preparation program, launched in 1998, started to provide federal grants to high-poverty middle schools and high schools. All students within those schools were provided with services to help them succeed in school and enter college, and as of 2000-2001, 200,000 students were served by GEAR UP.[15]

The National Institutes of Health spent approximately $9 billion a year under President Reagan, but under Clinton, Congress boosted NIH funding by 40 percent to average $12.7 billion. By 2000 federal NIH funding had surpassed $15 billion a year, a 50% increase over NIH spending when Clinton first took office, and the highest level of funding ever given for research on health and disease. To increase Internet access and reduce the “digital divide”, funding for Community Technology Centers (which were located in urban and rural neighborhoods that had little or no Internet access) was tripled. Expanded Educational technology was expanded, with the amount spent on educational technology increased from $27 million in 1994 to $769 million by 2000. As part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, “E-Rate" subsidized Internet access for schools and libraries.

Under Clinton’s direction, lenders covered under the Community Reinvestment Act stepped up their efforts, with banks and thrifts subject to CRA making $800 billion in sustainable home mortgage, small-business, and community development loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities from 1993 to 1999. In 2001, the New Markets and Community Renewal initiative was passed by Congress; it invested $25 billion in new incentives for growth in low-income communities to create nine new Empowerment Zones, bringing the total created under Clinton to 40. The low-income housing tax credit was increased to build an additional 700,000 units of affordable housing, and the New Markets Tax Credit was created, which encouraged venture capital firms to support small-business startups and rural development. In addition, 40 Renewal Communities were created with targeted, pro-growth tax benefits to spur robust outside investment. As a means of creating a nationwide network of community development banks, the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund was established. By 2000, the CDFI Fund had issued $436 million in total grants, loans, equity investments, and technical assistance to local financial institutions, banks, and thrifts, which increased their community development activities by upward of $2.4 billion.[14] In 1999, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, designed to help beneficiaries of SSI who wished to work to join the workforce without losing their Medicaid benefits, was signed into law.[16]

Clinton considered himself a "New Democrat" and was a founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group of Democrats, who promoted moderate social positions and neoliberal economic policies. This centrist style of government is often described as a "Third Way" between left-wing and right-wing politics, and was also adopted by Clinton's contemporary, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating for a US president since World War II, but he was the first US president to be impeached since Andrew Johnson (mainly as a result of the Lewinsky scandal) and only the second in US history. Like Johnson, however, he was acquitted by the Senate.

Legislation and programs

First Term (1993–1997)

1993 saw the start of America's first Democratic Presidency in 12 years.[18] In his first address to the nation on February 15, 1993, Clinton announced his intention to raise taxes to cap the budget deficit.[19] On February 17, 1993, in a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress, Clinton unveiled his economic plan. The plan focused on deficit reduction rather than a middle class tax cut, which had been high on his campaign agenda.[20] Clinton was pressured by his advisers, including future Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, to raise taxes on the theory that a smaller federal budget deficit would reduce bond interest rates.[21] In August 1993, Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote. It mandated deficit reduction[22] and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers, while cutting taxes on 15 million low-income families and making tax cuts available to 90% of small businesses.[23] Clinton's economic plan also included a major expansion of the existing Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed at working-class families just above the poverty line, which helped ensure that it made sense for them to work rather than seek welfare. John F Harris, argues that "this would prove to be one of the most important and tangible progressive achievements of the Clinton years".[24]

The transition period and the first few weeks of the administration in the White House were full of difficulties and drama.[25] In particular, finding someone for the high-profile United States Attorney General position proved problematic. Clinton had vowed to assemble an administration that "looked like America", and it was widely assumed that one of the major cabinet posts would go to a woman;[26] Clinton soon decided that he would appoint a female Attorney General, something women's political action groups were also requesting.[27] Many administration officials reported later that Clinton initially considered nominating the First Lady Hillary Clinton, herself a prominent attorney, but anti-nepotism laws stemming from Robert F. Kennedy's service in his brother's administration prohibited this.[28][29] Clinton chose little-known corporate lawyer Zoë Baird for the slot, but in what became known as the Nannygate matter, it was revealed that she had hired a Peruvian couple, both illegal immigrants, to work in her home. The possibility of the Attorney General having employed illegal immigrants provoked common resentment among a large group of people, who flooded the United States Congress and radio programs.[30] Baird withdrew her nomination and Clinton next chose Kimba Wood, who was quickly forced to withdraw due to somewhat similar problems. This led to over a thousand presidential appointment positions being subjected to heightened scrutiny for household help hiring practices, and a consequent significant slowdown in getting new administration positions filled.[31] Janet Reno, a Florida state's attorney, was nominated for Attorney General a few weeks later, and she won confirmation on March 11, 1993.[32]

Clinton's attempt to fulfill his campaign promise of allowing openly gay men and lesbians serving in the armed forces was the subject of criticism.[33] His handling of the issue garnered criticism from both the left (for being too tentative in promoting gay rights) and the right (for being too insensitive to military life). After much debate, Congress implemented the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, stating that homosexual men and women may serve in the military as long as their sexuality is kept secret. By 1999, Clinton said what he would "like to do is focus on making the policy we announced back in 1993 work the way it's intended to, because it's out of whack now, and I don't think any serious person could say it's not."[34] Some gay rights advocates criticized Clinton for not going far enough and accused him of making his campaign promise simply to get votes and contributions.[35][36] These advocates felt Clinton should have integrated the military by executive order, using President Truman's desegregation of the armed forces as an example. However, some believed Clinton had faced unfair blame, and that Congress deserved the criticism. In fact, on January 27, a small delegation had visited the White House and told Clinton that if he tried forcing a change by executive order, Congress would pass a bill (with a veto-proof majority) re-writing the existing policy into law.[37] Clinton's defenders argued this could make it harder to integrate the military in the future. Critics, however, said the focus should have been society instead of the military, claiming the military's goal was to defend the nation rather than become a "social Petri dish".[38]

Nannygate, gays in the military, the dropping of a promised middle-class tax cut, the World Trade Center bombing, and other issues all contributed to a difficult introduction of the Clinton presidency.[32][39] Clinton experienced the highest disapproval ratings at the start of any presidency since such polling began.[40][41] His "presidential honeymoon" period was thus extremely brief.[39]

Clinton nonetheless was able to pass major legislation in 1993, including the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico negotiated by President Bush but supported by many members of the Democratic Leadership Council. Despite opposition from anti-trade Republicans, protectionist Democrats, and supporters of Ross Perot, the bill passed both houses of Congress and came into force in 1994. Clinton also signed the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases,[42] and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which required large employers to allow their employees to take unpaid leave because of pregnancy or serious medical condition(s). In 1994, Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a major crime bill that included an assault weapons ban, an expanded federal death penalty, the Violence Against Women Act, and several other provisions.

The Clinton family arrives at the White House in 1993.

Perhaps the most prominent item on Clinton's first-term legislative agenda was passage of a health care reform plan. A task force headed by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed the plan, which aimed to achieve universal coverage via a national healthcare plan. Though initially well received in political circles, it was ultimately doomed by well-organized opposition from conservatives, the American Medical Association, and the health insurance industry. Despite his party holding a majority in the House and Senate, the effort to create a national healthcare system ultimately died under heavy public pressure. It was the first major legislative defeat of Clinton's administration.

Clinton and Vice President Gore talk while walking through the Colonnade at the White House.
President Bill Clinton installing computer cables with Vice President Al Gore on NetDay at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, CA. March 9, 1996.

The Clinton-Gore administration launched the first official White House website on October 21, 1994.[43][44] It was revamped three times; the third version was launched in 2000.[45][46] The White House website was part of a general movement by this administration towards web based communication. On July 17, 1996, Clinton issued Executive Order 13011 – Federal Information Technology, ordering the heads of all federal agencies to fully utilize information technology to make the information of the agency easily accessible to the public."[47] On March 9, 1996, Clinton and Gore participated in NetDay'96, spending the day at Ygnacio Valley High School, as part of the drive to connect California public schools to the Internet. In a speech given at YVH, Clinton stated that he was excited to see that his challenge the previous September to "Californians to connect at least 20% of your schools to the Information Superhighway by the end of this school year" was met. Clinton also described this event as part of a time of "absolutely astonishing transformation; a moment of great possibility. All of you know that the information and technology explosion will offer to you and to the young people of the future more opportunities and challenges than any generation of Americans has ever seen."[48]

The 1994 elections proved disastrous for the Democrats. Republicans, campaigning on their Contract with America, took control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1950s. Due to the large Republican gains, the 1994 election is sometimes known as the Republican Revolution. Congress passed conservative legislation such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed for greater media cross-ownership, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which reduced welfare spending, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned the recognition of same-sex marriages. However, Clinton also vetoed several Republican initiatives, and a showdown over federal spending levels over the 1996 United States federal budget led to two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. The shutdown ended after Clinton successfully portrayed the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, as "extreme" and "unreasonable."[49]

In the 1996 presidential election a few months later, Clinton was re-elected, receiving 49.2% of the popular vote over Republican Bob Dole (40.7% of the popular vote) and Reform candidate Ross Perot (8.4% of the popular vote), becoming the first Democrat to win reelection to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans lost a few seats in the House and gained a few in the Senate, but retained control of both houses of Congress.

Second Term (1997–2001)

Clinton visiting the Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1998.

In 1997, Clinton finally had a chance to sign a major health care bill into law. The State Children's Health Insurance Program, passed through the efforts of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Senator Orrin Hatch, expanded coverage to approximately six-million children. Also, through the First Lady's work, childhood immunizations reached over 90% and funding for research on Gulf War Syndrome, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and asthma was increased.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted by Clinton on October 21, 1998, served as the first significant amendment to the Copyright Act since 1976. The DMCA provided a framework for sound recording copyright owners and recording artists to seek public performance royalties under statute, which proved to be a landmark achievement for the recording industry.[50]

Throughout 1998 there was a controversy over Clinton's relationship with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton initially denied the affair while testifying in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. The opposing lawyers asked the president about it during his deposition. He stated "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I've never had an affair with her." Four days later he also said, "There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship."[51] Clinton then appeared on national television on January 26 and stated: "Listen to me, I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." However, after it was revealed that investigators had obtained a semen-stained dress as well as testimony from Lewinsky, Clinton changed tactics and admitted that an improper relationship with Lewinsky had taken place: "Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible." Faced with overwhelming evidence, he apologized to the nation, agreed to pay a $25,000 court fine, settled his sexual harassment lawsuit with Paula Jones for $850,000 and was temporarily disbarred, for a period of five years, from practicing law in Arkansas and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was not tried for perjury in a court. However, he did admit to "testifying falsely" in a carefully worded statement as part of a deal to avoid indictment for perjury.

On December 19, 1998, in the lame duck session after the 1998 elections, the Republican-controlled House voted to impeach Clinton. After an impeachment trial in the Senate, the Senate voted to fully acquit Clinton in a 50-50 vote; 67 votes were required to remove Clinton from office. All Democrats and five Republican Senators voted to fully acquit Clinton.[52]

Clinton and Tony Blair, 1999

In 1999, Clinton signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA). GLBA repealed parts of the Glass–Steagall Act, which had prevented one institution from acting as an investment bank, commercial bank, and insurance company. After Republicans agreed to changes to the Community Reinvestment Act, the GLBA overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress. The legislation was spurred in part by the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group into Citigroup, which the Federal Reserve had allowed under a temporary waiver.

The Elián González affair took prominent stage during early 2000. When his family fled from communist Cuba, the boy survived a boat wreck but his mother died, setting off an international legal fight for where the boy should stay. Eventually the administration, via Janet Reno, had González returned to Cuba.

Clinton issued 141 pardons and 36 commutations on his last day in office on January 20, 2001.[53][54] Most of the controversy surrounded Marc Rich and allegations that Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, accepted payments in return for influencing the president's decision-making regarding the pardons.[55] Some of Clinton's pardons remain a point of controversy.[56] While the administration saw the expansion of the federal death penalty, which Clinton supported, and the end of his tenure he became the first president since John F. Kennedy (who had commuted the military death sentence of seaman Jimmie Henderson[57]) to issue a presidential commutation of a death sentence when he commuted the sentence of David Ronald Chandler to life imprisonment without parole,[58] and ordered a review of a possibly racial disparity in the application of the federal death penalty.

Clinton remained popular with the public throughout his two terms as President, ending his presidential career with a 65% approval rating, the highest end-of-term approval rating of any President since Dwight D. Eisenhower (with Ronald Reagan's approval rating at 64% in 1989, Clinton and Reagan's approval ratings are within margin of error).[59] In addition to his political skills, Clinton also benefited from a boom of the US economy. Under Clinton, the United States had a projected federal budget surplus for the first time since 1969 in the 1998 federal budget; the budgets for 1999, 2000, and 2001 also had surpluses.[1] As a result of this, the public debt decreased, though the gross federal debt continued to increase.[2][3][4]

Foreign policy

The administration took office less than two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the administration's foreign policy addressed conflicts in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and the Balkans. In September 1994, Clinton announced his plan to invade Haiti if it refused restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency of Haiti. Operation Uphold Democracy, authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 940, successfully restored Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power as President of Haiti.[60] Clinton took a particularly active role in the Balkans, and he initiated NATO-led air campaigns during the Bosnian War and the Kosovo War. After initial successes following the election of Yitzhak Rabin in Israel and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Middle East peace process deteriorated over time, breaking down completely with the start of the Second Intifada, and the election of Ariel Sharon. The Clinton presidency also saw the passage and signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 which was a bipartisan measure expressing support for regime change in Iraq. On three separate occasions, in 1996, 1998, and 2000, the administration unsuccessfully attempted to capture or assassinate Osama Bin Laden, who was eventually killed by U.S. special operations forces in 2011.

The economy

Budget Deficit in Billions of Dollars (1971-2001). There were budget surpluses from 1998-2001.

Clinton's presidency included a great period of economic growth in America's history. David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers University, opined that:

The Clinton years were unquestionably a time of progress, especially on the economy [...] Clinton's 1992 slogan, 'Putting people first,' and his stress on 'the economy, stupid,' pitched an optimistic if still gritty populism at a middle class that had suffered under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. [...] By the end of the Clinton presidency, the numbers were uniformly impressive. Besides the record-high surpluses and the record-low poverty rates, the economy could boast the longest economic expansion in history; the lowest unemployment since the early 1970s; and the lowest poverty rates for single mothers, black Americans, and the aged.[61]

In proposing a plan to cut the deficit, Clinton submitted a budget that would cut the deficit by $500 billion over five years by reducing $255 billion of spending and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of Americans.[62] It also imposed a new energy tax on all Americans and subjected about a quarter of those receiving Social Security payments to higher taxes on their benefits.[63]

Republican Congressional leaders launched an aggressive opposition against the bill, claiming that the tax increase would only make matters worse. Republicans were united in this opposition, as it were, and every Republican in both houses of Congress voted against the proposal. In fact, it took Vice President Gore's tie-breaking vote in the Senate to pass the bill.[64] After extensive lobbying by the Clinton Administration, the House narrowly voted in favor of the bill by a vote of 218 to 216.[65] The budget package expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as relief to low-income families. It reduced the amount they paid in federal income and Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA), providing $21 billion in relief for 15 million low-income families. Improved economic conditions and policies served to encourage investors in the bond market, leading to a decline in long-term interest rates. Clinton's final four budgets were balanced budgets with surpluses, beginning with the 1997 budget. The surplus money was used to pay down the public debt by $452 billion, though the gross federal debt continued to increase.[2] However, the claimed surplus was only recorded against public debt which was calculated with the exclusion of intragovernmental holdings. This meant that the administration was able to record loans deducted from the social security trust fund as revenue on budget reports, which accounted for the bulk of the surplus money. Calculating both the intragovernmental holdings from the public debt, the lowest deficit was $17.9 billion; in effect, the alleged surplus was, supposedly, a mere accounting fiction.[66][67][68][69][70][71] The total national debt (gross federal debt) rose every year of the Clinton Administration from $4.3 trillion to $5.6 trillion and from $5.4 trillion to $5.6 trillion over the years where the surplus was claimed.[72]

The economy continued to grow, and in February 2000 it broke the record for the longest uninterrupted economic expansion in U.S. history.[73][74] However, it has been argued that the strong economic growth of the late 1990s was caused by wrong allocations and malinvestments of the NASDAQ Bubble and Dot-Com Bubble, both of which came to an end in late 2001 through mid-2002[75] After Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, Clinton vehemently fought their proposed tax cuts, believing that they favored the wealthy and would weaken economic growth. In August 1997, however, Clinton and Congressional Republicans were finally able to reach a compromise on a bill that reduced capital gain and estate taxes and gave taxpayers a credit of $500 per child and tax credits for college tuition and expenses. The bill also called for a new individual retirement account (IRA) called the Roth IRA to allow people to invest taxed income for retirement without having to pay taxes upon withdrawal. Additionally, the law raised the national minimum for cigarette taxes. The next year, Congress approved Clinton's proposal to make college more affordable by expanding federal student financial aid through Pell Grants, and lowering interest rates on student loans.

Clinton also battled Congress nearly every session on the federal budget, in an attempt to secure spending on education, government entitlements, the environment, and AmeriCorps–the national service program that was passed by the Democratic Congress in the early days of the Clinton administration. The two sides, however, could not find a compromise and the budget battle came to a stalemate in 1995 over proposed cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. After Clinton vetoed numerous Republican spending bills, Republicans in Congress twice refused to pass temporary spending authorizations, forcing the federal government to partially shut down because agencies had no budget on which to operate.[76]

In April 1996, Clinton and Congress finally agreed on a budget that provided money for government agencies until the end of the fiscal year in October. The budget included some of the spending cuts that the Republicans supported (decreasing the cost of cultural, labor, and housing programs) but also preserved many programs that Clinton wanted, including educational and environmental ones.

The Clinton presidency claims responsibility for the following:

  • Average economic growth of 4.0% per year, compared to average growth of 2.8% during the previous years. The economy grew for 116 consecutive months, the most in history.[77]
  • Creation of more than 22.5 million jobs—the most jobs ever created under a single administration, and more than were created in the previous 12 years. Of the total new jobs, 20.7 million, or 92%, were in the private sector.[78]
  • Economic gains spurred an increase in family incomes for all Americans. Since 1993, real median family income increased by $6,338, from $42,612 in 1993 to $48,950 in 1999 (in 1999 dollars).[79]
  • Overall unemployment dropped to the lowest level in more than 30 years, down from 6.9% in 1993 to just 4.0% in January 2001. The unemployment rate was below 5% for 40 consecutive months. Unemployment for African Americans fell from 14.2% in 1992 to 7.3% in 2000, the lowest rate on record. Unemployment for Hispanics fell from 11.8% in October 1992 to 5.0% in 2000, also the lowest rate on record.[78]
  • Inflation dropped to its lowest rate since the Kennedy Administration, averaging 2.5%, and fell from 4.7% during the previous administration.[80]
  • The homeownership rate reached 67.7% near the end of the Clinton administration, the highest rate on record. In contrast, the homeownership rate fell from 65.6% in the first quarter of 1981 to 63.7% in the first quarter of 1993.[81]
  • The poverty rate also declined from 15.1% in 1993 to 11.8% in 1999, the largest six-year drop in poverty in nearly 30 years. This left 7 million fewer people in poverty than there were in 1993.[82]
  • The surplus in fiscal year 2000 was $237 billion—the third consecutive surplus and the largest surplus ever.[81]
  • Clinton worked with the Republican-led Congress to enact welfare reform. As a result, welfare rolls dropped dramatically and were the lowest since 1969. Between January 1993 and September 1999, the number of welfare recipients dropped by 7.5 million (a 53% decline) to 6.6 million. In comparison, between 1981–1992, the number of welfare recipients increased by 2.5 million (a 22% increase) to 13.6 million people.[83]


File:Union Elections Threatened With NAFTA Closing (1993-1995).SVG
Studies done by Kate Bronfenbrenner at Cornell University showed the adverse effect of plants threatening to move to Mexico because of NAFTA.[84]

Clinton made it one of his goals as president to pass trade legislation that lowered the barriers to trade with other nations. He broke with many of his supporters, including labor unions, and those in his own party to support free-trade legislation.[85] Opponents argued that lowering tariffs and relaxing rules on imports would cost American jobs because people would buy cheaper products from other countries. Clinton countered that free trade would help America because it would allow the U.S. to boost its exports and grow the economy. Clinton also believed that free trade could help move foreign nations to economic and political reform.

The three-nation NAFTA was signed by President George H. W. Bush during December 1992, pending its ratification by the legislatures of the three countries. Clinton did not alter the original agreement, but complemented it with the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, making NAFTA the first "green" trade treaty and the first trade treaty concerned with each country's labor laws, albeit with very weak sanctions.[86] NAFTA provided for gradually reduced tariffs and the creation of a free-trading bloc of North American countries–the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Opponents of NAFTA, led by Ross Perot, claimed it would force American companies to move their workforces to Mexico, where they could produce goods with cheaper labor and ship them back to the United States at lower prices. Clinton, however, argued that NAFTA would increase U.S. exports and create new jobs. Clinton while signing the NAFTA bill stated: "…NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement.”[87] He convinced many Democrats to join most Republicans in supporting trade agreement and in 1993 the Congress passed the treaty.[88]

Clinton also held meetings with leaders of Pacific Rim nations to discuss lowering trade barriers. In November 1993 he hosted a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Seattle, Washington, which was attended by the leaders of 12 Pacific Rim nations. In 1994, Clinton arranged an agreement in Indonesia with Pacific Rim nations to gradually remove trade barriers and open their markets.

Officials in the Clinton administration also participated in the final round of trade negotiations sponsored by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an international trade organization. The negotiations had been ongoing since 1986. In a rare move, Clinton convened Congress to ratify the trade agreement in the winter of 1994, during which the treaty was approved. As part of the GATT agreement, a new international trade body, the World Trade Organization (WTO), replaced GATT in 1995. The new WTO had stronger authority to enforce trade agreements and covered a wider range of trade than did GATT.

Clinton faced his first defeat on trade legislation during his second term. In November 1997, the Republican-controlled Congress delayed voting on a bill to restore a presidential trade authority that had expired in 1994. The bill would have given the president the authority to negotiate trade agreements which the Congress was not authorized to modify–known as "fast-track negotiating" because it streamlines the treaty process. Clinton was unable to generate sufficient support for the legislation, even among the Democratic Party.

Clinton faced yet another trade setback in December 1999, when the WTO met in Seattle for a new round of trade negotiations. Clinton hoped that new agreements on issues such as agriculture and intellectual property could be proposed at the meeting, but the talks fell through. Anti-WTO protesters in the streets of Seattle disrupted the meetings[89] and the international delegates attending the meetings were unable to compromise mainly because delegates from smaller, poorer countries resisted Clinton's efforts to discuss labor and environmental standards.[90]

That same year, Clinton signed a landmark trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. The agreement–the result of more than a decade of negotiations–would lower many trade barriers between the two countries, making it easier to export U.S. products such as automobiles, banking services, and motion pictures. However, the agreement could only take effect if China was accepted into the WTO and was granted permanent "normal trade relations" status by the U.S. Congress. Under the pact, the United States would support China's membership in the WTO. Many Democrats as well as Republicans were reluctant to grant permanent status to China because they were concerned about human rights in the country and the impact of Chinese imports on U.S. industries and jobs. Congress, however, voted in 2000 to grant permanent normal trade relations with China. Several economic studies have since been released that indicate the increase in trade resulting lowered American prices and increased the U.S. GDP by 0.7% throughout the following decade.[91]

The Clinton administration negotiated a total of about 300 trade agreements with other countries.[92] Clinton's last treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, stated that the lowered tariffs that resulted from Clinton's trade policies, which reduced prices to consumers and kept inflation low, were technically "the largest tax cut in the history of the world."[93]

Personnel and appointments

Judicial appointments

Clinton appointed the following justices to the Supreme Court:


President Clinton's Cabinet, 1993. The President is seated front right, with Vice President Al Gore seated front left.
The Clinton Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Bill Clinton 1993–2001
Vice President Al Gore 1993–2001
Secretary of State Warren Christopher 1993–1997
Madeleine Albright 1997–2001
Secretary of Treasury Lloyd Bentsen 1993–1994
Robert Rubin 1995–1999
Lawrence Summers 1999–2001
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin 1993–1994
William Perry 1994–1997
William Cohen 1997–2001
Attorney General Janet Reno 1993–2001
Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt 1993–2001
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy 1993–1994
Daniel Glickman 1995–2001
Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown 1993–1996
Mickey Kantor 1996–1997
William Daley 1997–2000
Norman Mineta 2000–2001
Secretary of Labor Robert Reich 1993–1997
Alexis Herman 1997–2001
Secretary of Health and
Human Services
Donna Shalala 1993–2001
Secretary of Education Richard Riley 1993–2001
Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development
Henry Cisneros 1993–1997
Andrew Cuomo 1997–2001
Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña 1993–1997
Rodney Slater 1997–2001
Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary 1993–1997
Federico Peña 1997–1998
Bill Richardson 1998–2001
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown 1993–1997
Togo West 1998–2000
Hershel W. Gober, act. 2000–2001
Chief of Staff Mack McLarty 1993–1994
Leon Panetta 1994–1997
Erskine Bowles 1997–1998
John Podesta 1998–2001
Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency
Carol Browner 1993–2001
Director of the Office of
Management and Budget
Leon Panetta 1993–1994
Alice Rivlin 1994–1996
Franklin Raines 1996–1998
Jacob Lew 1998–2001
Director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy
Lee Brown 1993–1995
Barry McCaffrey 1996–2001
United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor 1993–1997
Charlene Barshefsky 1997–2001

White House – Senior Staff

President Clinton's Latino Appointees in 1998

Senior Staff of the Executive Office of the President in the Clinton-Gore administration.

  • Assistant to the President for Administration
  • Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Director
    • Carol Rasco[98]
    • Bruce Reed
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Legislative Affairs
    • Charles Brain[101]
    • Patrick Griffin[102]
    • John Hilley
    • Howard Paster
    • Craig T. Smith
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Personnel
    • Robert Nash
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Scheduling
    • Stephanie Streett – scheduling office director
  • Assistant to the President and Science and Technology Advisor
  • Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting
    • J. Terry Edmonds
    • Michael Waldman
  • Chief of Staff to the First Lady

White House – Other Staff

  • Deputy Assistants to the President
  • Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
  • Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Campaign manager of Bill Clinton in 1996
  • Other Staff
    • Patricia Enright-Health Care Deputy Spokesperson[105]

Legacy and post-presidency

Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, won the Democratic nomination in the 2000 presidential election. In an extremely close and controversial election, Gore was defeated by Republican Governor George W. Bush, the son of the man Clinton had defeated in the 1992 presidential election. Though Clinton and Gore had been close political partners for much of Clinton's presidency, Gore notably kept his distance from Clinton during the presidential campaign.[106] That same year, First Lady Hillary Clinton won an election to represent New York in the United States Senate. Hillary Clinton won re-election in 2006 and ran for president in 2008. However, she lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama, who went on to win the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Hillary Clinton then served as United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, before launching another campaign for the presidency in 2016. Bill Clinton's presidency played a prominent role in his wife's campaigns for president, and Bill Clinton served as a top adviser to his wife.[107] Clinton also founded the Clinton Foundation as a humanitarian organization to address issues such as global health and climate change.

Historians tend to rank Clinton as an average president, although a 2015 poll of the American Political Science Association ranked Clinton as the 8th greatest president.[108] Clinton remains popular among the general public, and a 2010 poll found Clinton to be the most popular political figure in the country.[109]

See also



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