Joseph A. Morris | Shutdowns have been frequent tools of policy. Just ask Reagan.

One party controls the White House and the Senate by less than the margin needed to end a filibuster, and the other party controls the House by a wide margin. A fundamental conflict over government spending is at the heart of an impasse that leads to a shutdown of the federal government.

The year is not 2013 but 1981 .?.?. and 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1987. That’s right, the Reagan years, when President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill would work things out and avoid having to close the Washington Monument. With all due respect to Chris Matthews and other purveyors of this narrative popular in today’s Washington, the reality was quite different.

I joined the staff of the Office of Personnel Management in 1981. Soon after, several decisive actions by the president demonstrated his determination to show that lines had been crossed. One came in August with the firing of striking air traffic controllers. Another came Nov. 20, when Reagan vetoed an appropriations bill that did not achieve at least half of his proposed reduction of $8.4 billion in domestic spending. In the absence of appropriations, the administration shut down the government for four days.


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