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Government and Politics

Former President Clinton talks Congress, debt and crisis in Cleveland
Bill Clinton also helped raise money for the Cuyahoga Community College Thursday

Former president Bill Clinton believes we need a healthy bipartisan debate.
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Former President Bill Clinton took the debt ceiling fracas and government shutdown to task, as he raised money for Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland today. For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Brian Bull reports.

LISTEN: Brian Bull reports on Clinton's visit to Tri-C

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Bill Clinton’s no stranger to Congressional gridlock, partisan warfare, and especially shutdowns. 

Disagreements between his administration and House Republicans over budget initiatives – including Medicare and public health – closed down the federal system in 1995 and 1996, shuttering agencies and laying off thousands of government workers.

So Clinton told the crowd of over 1,200 at Tri-C just how he felt when he flew home from Florida the other night -- and got the news of a budget deal struck between the White House and Capitol Hill:

“I was to put it mildly, glad. But the exercise we just went through – which is like two that occurred when I was president — cost the economy $24 billion, disrupted the lives of large numbers of people, and did more damage I think, than almost any American knows, to the reputation of the United States around the world.” 

Clinton said the Chinese have been especially critical, even suggesting that the global markets needed to “de-Americanize” for stability’s sake. 

He said the need for bipartisanship has never been stronger, and took issue with those who would try to score points for partisan gain, no matter the cost,a jab at hard-line conservatives who wanted to tie defunding the Affordable Care Act to the budget negotiations. 

“Nobody’s right all the time, and we need a two-party system, and we need vigorous debates. But our whole system since the Founding Fathers set it up, was in the Constitution, we’re bound to pay our debts. That’s our responsibility.” 

At the same time, Clinton avoided taking any hard-line stances himself. 

He said Democrats and Republicans could have “creative” debate, that eventually moves to compromise and therefore a better government -- minus the drama.

“We really do need a healthy bipartisan debate. But it’s very hard to debate if you feel like you’ve got a gun to your head every day when you show up.”

Clinton made his remarks at a $1,000-a-plate luncheon to fund scholarships for the Tri-C system across the Greater Cleveland area. 

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