I was thinking tonight about when the House voted on the historic Clinton budget in 1993. The “Bart Stupak” holdout then was Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky, a DLC-type “no new taxes” congresswoman from suburban Philadelphia who opposed the Clinton plan because it didn’t contain enough spending cuts:
During her campaign, she had promised not to raise taxes, and the budget proposed a hike in federal taxes, including a gasoline tax. On the day of the vote, she appeared on television and told her constituents that she was against the budget. Minutes before the vote, however, on August 5, 1993, President Clinton called to ask Margolies-Mezvinsky to support the measure. She told him that only if it was the deciding vote—in this case, the 218th yea—would she support the measure. “I wasn’t going to do it at 217. I wasn’t going to do it at 219. Only at 218, or I was voting against it,” she recalled.11 She also extracted a promise from Clinton that if she did have to vote for the budget package, that he would attend a conference in her district dedicated to reducing the budget deficit. He agreed (and later fulfilled the pledge). Nevertheless, Margolies-Mezvinsky told Clinton “I think I’m falling on a political sword on this one.” When she finally walked onto the House Floor to cast the decisive vote, passing the measure 218 to 216, Democrats cheered while Republicans jeered, “Goodbye, Marjorie!”12 She later recalled that “I knew at the time that changing my vote at the 11th hour may have been tantamount to political suicide.… [but] the vote would resolve itself into one simple question: Was my political future more important than the agenda the President had laid out for America?”13
Margolies-Mezvinsky’s vote, coming as it did after her specific promises, created wide resentment among her district constituents. “I ran into a wall of anger,” she recalled when she returned to her district throughout the fall of 1993. In 1994, the Republican National Committee targeted her and 14 other vulnerable House Democrats (many of them first-term women) who had voted for the Clinton budget. That fall Margolies-Mezvinsky again faced off against Jon Fox, who attacked her relentlessly for her vote. He won by a slim margin of 8,000 votes, with 49 percent to her 45 percent in a four-way race.
And there was exactly the same kind of hysteria brought to bear on this vote from the Republicans, many impassioned speeches about how the Clinton budget was going to “bankrupt the government.”
Of course, it didn’t. It gave us a balanced budget, and a surplus. But Republicans don’t like facts to get in the way of a good scary story.