Former GOP Rep. Oxley, in NH, recalls '95-'96 shutdowns, sees 'no end game' for GOP today
CONCORD -- Former 25-year congressman Mike Oxley said Friday both parties on Capitol Hill should learn a lesson he learned as a player in the last government federal government shutdown nearly two decades ago.
“Don’t take a hostage unless you’re prepared to shoot him,” the Ohio Republican said during an interview while making an appearance in New Hampshire.
That message, he said, especially goes for the Republicans, although he blamed President Barack Obama for a lack of leadership and a failure to negotiate.
Oxley was the featured speaker Friday at the University of New Hampshire Law School’s Warren B. Rudman Center as it launched its Fiscal Responsibility Institute speaker series.
Speaking with the New Hampshire Union Leader before his talk, Oxley said “the atmosphere has changed so much” since he left Congress eight years ago
“Part of it is lack of presidential leadership,” he said.
He said that in 1995 he was “leery” of former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s willingness to force a government shutdown because he realized Republicans would be blamed
After 40-years of Democratic control of the House Republicans gained control in the 1994 mid-term election.
“We Republicans came in feeling pretty feisty and that led to that whole showdown” with former President Bill Clinton, Oxley said.
Now, with another crisis, he suggested retrospectively, “Don’t pick a fight you can’t win, and have an exit strategy.”
In 1995 and 1996, he said, Gingrich “had no ‘plan B’ and Clinton didn’t cave.”
The controversy surrounding the closing of the World War II Memorial brought back a harsh memory for Oxley.
He recalled getting soundly criticized during the 1995-1996 shutdown by a letter to the editor in his local newspaper after two veterans from his district went to Hawaii and were denied entrance to the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor because it was closed.
“That always stuck with me,” he said. “The effect it has on real people.
“It’s one thing if you gain something and change the world,” he said, “but that’s not happening here.”
He said he is a friend of fellow Ohioan House Speaker John Boehner and told him, “You know, most of these guys,” referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other Tea Party senators and House members, “if they ever played sports at all, probably played an individual sport and never played a team sport.
“And most of them never got elected to anything before Congress. They never served on a city council or in a state legislature or a school board, where you actually have to govern and make policy decisions and make compromises.
“They’re totally devoid of that ability,” he said, predicting a long shutdown.
“I don’t see any end game,” he said.
During his talk to Rudman Center supporters and University of New Hampshire masters of business administration students, Oxley recalled the development and passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which he affectionately called “Sox.”
The law enacted sweeping regulations of publicly-traded companies after Enron, the former energy and commodities giant, went bankrupt as a result of broad accounting fraud and corporate corruption.
Investors lost billions, he said, because “the auditors, the analysts, the attorneys, the board and the credit rating agencies, every potential entity that could have slowed it down if not stopped the illegal activities, cooking the books,” did not.
He cited a major report directed by then-University of Texas Law School dean William Powers.
Sarbanes-Oxley, named after him and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, by holding top management officials of publicly-traded companies accountable for the accuracy of financial information, restored investor confidence “thorough transparency and accountability.
“In 11-plus years, we haven’t had anything near that and I’m proud of the fact that we were able to do that,” he said.
“The fact that we had lost investor confidence was the most important thing to take out of this,” Oxley said. “At the heart of capitalism is the individual investor.
“That has been the core of our system since the get-go.”
Oxley said, however, that “faith in the market by investors is very fragile.”
When the market nearly collapsed in 2008, many investors got out of the market and “haven’t been back in,” said Oxley.
Raising investor confidence remains a challenge, he said.
“We have a major responsibility to restore that investor confidence to convince people to take money out from under their mattresses and invest it in the market,” he said.