Former Budget Directors Scold Authors of Shutdown

“It’s time to govern, to roll up our sleeves and get to work, like they should have done weeks ago in a budget conference,” Panetta told reporters at a National Press Club event . “It’s time to govern, to roll up our sleeves and get to work, like they should have done weeks ago in a budget conference,” Panetta told reporters at a National Press Club event . Defense Department file photo

Two White House budget office veterans who experienced the 1990s government shutdown lambasted current Washington leaders on Wednesday for imposing the appropriations lapse and near-breach of the debt-ceiling on “the innocent people” who elected them.

Leon Panetta, the Clinton administration budget director and more recently the Defense secretary, joined with Jim Nussle, former House member from Iowa who ran the Office of Management and Budget under the George W. Bush administration, to say it is time to end “this shameful and tragic episode in our history” that hurts the fragile economy and the national defense.

“It’s time to govern, to roll up our sleeves and get to work, like they should have done weeks ago in a budget conference,” Panetta told reporters at a National Press Club event sponsored by the advocacy group Campaign to Fix the Debt. Speaking as both chambers of Congress appeared poised to enact a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, he called for lawmakers to address entitlement savings and develop a five-year strategy for discretionary spending. He warned that “if leadership is not there, we will continue to operate in a crisis.”

Nussle said, “This is not a proud moment for our country,” warning that the country in the future could take one of two paths, “one, another juncture on Jan. 15 or Feb. 7 just as damaging” as the current situation, or another in which “cooler heads who want to govern” prevail in focusing on the long-term future.

Nussle was especially tough on his fellow House Republicans, saying “any child watching Saturday morning cartoons and seeing Schoolhouse Rock’s ‘How a Bill Becomes a Law’ would have known that if the president and the Senate say ‘no,’ then it won’t work in the House.”

Asked whether trimming federal benefits should be part of the coming budget conference called for in the pending package, Nussle said, “We may have already lost a generation of public servants who were watching over the past three years and saying, ‘Forget it.’ So many good people don’t deserve to be treated as pawns.”

Panetta said lessons from the shutdown include a need to overcome a lack of trust of those in the opposition party and the need to put everything on the table. “We don’t elect people to survive in office, but to make the tough decisions it takes to govern,” he said. After the deal is finalized, “you’ll see people on both sides taking credit,” Panetta added, “but there are no winners or losers.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.