Public Unions' Battle With Gingrich in the 1990s

In profiling Gerald McEntee, president of the nation's largest public-employees union, The New York Times' Steve Greenhouse recalls McEntee's role in hammering then-House speaker Newt Gingrich and Republicans during the 1995 government shutdown:

After the Republican revolution of 1994, Mr. McEntee led a labor-financed advertising campaign to help derail Newt Gingrich's proposal to rein in Medicare spending. And when Mr. Gingrich, then the House speaker, precipitated a government shutdown, Mr. McEntee's union again ran ads hitting the Republicans, helping turn public opinion against Mr. Gingrich and in favor of President Clinton.

"Gerry's effort was very helpful," said Harold M. Ickes, who served as Mr. Clinton's deputy chief of staff. "Once Gerry makes up his mind on something, he's very forceful and dogged." ...

Mark Neumann, who was a Republican congressman from Wisconsin in the mid-1990s, still complains about the "horrible" ads Mr. McEntee ran against Mr. Gingrich's allies. One showed a middle-aged couple at their kitchen table, with the wife worrying that she might have to quit her job to take care of her mother if Mr. Gingrich's proposals were enacted. "Gingrich and his Republicans are starting to ram their Medicare and Medicaid cuts through Congress now," that ad said. "so they can pay for more tax giveaways to the rich."

"They were misleading," Mr. Neumann said. He said Republicans were not planning cuts, but were merely trying to hold down Medicare spending increases to 7 percent a year from a projected 14 percent.

Read the full profile at The New York Times.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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