President Bill Clinton – A Chronology
January 20 William Jefferson Clinton is inaugurated as the forty-second President of the United States.
January 25 President Clinton announces that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. The President hopes to reform the nation’s health care system so that all Americans have health insurance, ensuring what is called “universal coverage,” and to control the sky-rocketing costs of health care.
February 5 President Clinton signs the Family Medical Leave Act that requires companies to provide workers with up to three months of unpaid leave for family and medical emergencies.
February 26 Six people were killed and more than a thousand suffered injuries after a bomb planted under the World Trade Center in New York City exploded. The bomb marked the beginning of a string of threats against the United States made during the Clinton administration by both foreign and domestic terrorists.
March 3 President Clinton appointed Vice President Al Gore to head the National Performance Review, which devised a “Reinventing Government” Initiative. The Initiative streamlined government by reducing the number of federal employees and federal spending as a percentage of GDP to levels unseen since the Kennedy administration.
March 11 The Senate confirmed Janet Reno as Attorney General, the first woman to serve in the position. Reno was Clinton’s third choice for the position, after his first two selections were scuttled after criticism.
April 19 In Waco, Texas, federal law enforcement officers, under the orders of Attorney General Janet Reno, ended a 51-day standoff against a religious cult led by self-styled messiah David Koresh. The fires that destroyed the cult’s compound killed at least 75 people, and brought Reno widespread criticism for her aggressive handling of the situation.
June 26 The U.S. Navy, under President Clinton’s orders, attacked Iraqi intelligence operations in downtown Baghdad after learning that the Iraqis had plotted to kill former President Bush during his visit to Kuwait in April, 1993. The twenty-three tomahawk missiles reportedly killed 8 persons.
July 19 President Clinton announced an “honorable compromise” in the debate surrounding gays in the military. Gays would be allowed to serve, but could face military investigations if they acknowledged their homosexuality and could be expelled for it. The policy was labeled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
July 20 Vince Foster, Deputy Counsel to the President, was found dead in a Northern Virginia park. Authorities ruled his death a suicide, but subsequent federal investigators would re-open the case in the future.
August 3 The Senate confirmed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She succeeded the retiring Byron White and became the second woman to sit on the high court.
August 10 President Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The legislation, which passed both houses by slim majorities, laid out a plan to reduce the budget deficit by $496 billion through 1998 using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
September 13 President Clinton presided over a ceremony in Washington, D.C. at which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the first agreement between Jews and Palestinians, which provided for Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
September 22 President Clinton unveiled a plan for universal health care that would fix what he called a “badly broken” system. Clinton emphasized that under his plan all Americans would have high quality health care and would be able to choose their physicians.
October 3-4 An elite American special forces unit searching for Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu was ambushed by Aidid’s forces, leaving 18 Americans dead. President Bill Clinton announced three days later that all American military personnel in Somalia would be home by March 31, 1994. (For details on this, see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ambush/)
November 30 President Clinton signed the Brady Act, which required a potential handgun purchaser to wait five days while a background check was performed by law enforcement officers.
December 8 President Clinton, after a hard-fought battle in Congress, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that would eliminate nearly every trade barrier between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating the world’s largest free trade zone.
January 10-11 President Clinton attended the NATO Summit Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at which he announced that the United States would maintain at least 100,000 troops in Europe. He also introduced the “Partnership for Peace” program that aimed to build closer ties between NATO and former Warsaw Pact states. (Dept. of State Chrono.)
February 3 President Clinton ended the nineteen year-old trade embargo against Vietnam, noting that Vietnam was indeed trying to locate 2,238 Americans listed as missing in action since the Vietnam War.
March 25 The last American marines left Somalia.
May 26 President Clinton renewed China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, even though, China had not made as much progress on human rights issues as he had hoped.
June 14 President Clinton unveiled his welfare reform initiatives. Clinton had campaigned in 1992 on the issue, promising to “end welfare as we know it.”
July 25 President Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan. The meeting resulted in Israel and Jordan agreeing in principle to end nearly fifty years of official antagonism.
August 26 The White House and congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), announced that Clinton’s ambitious form of health care reform would not happen in 1994. Clinton’s initiatives failed to find support in Congress. (WP, 8/26/94)
September 13 President Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that included provisions that provided for the hiring of 100,000 more policemen and the expansion of the death penalty to cover more than 50 federal crimes.
September 18 Haiti’s military government, after a tense stand-off with the Clinton Administration, agreed to cede power. The Clinton Administration, along with the United Nations, had tried for over a year to restore the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in a coup on September 30, 1991.
October 9 The Clinton Administration announced plans to send over 35,000 troops to the Persian Gulf to deter an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Less than three days after the announcement, Iraqi troops pulled back from the Iraq-Kuwait border.
November 8 The Republican Party, in the midterm congressional elections, won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in over 40 years. In the Senate, they held a 53 to 47 advantage, and in the House a 230 to 214 to 1 lead.
December 1 The Senate voted to approve the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that 117 nations, including the United States, agreed to in December, 1993. The agreement cut tariffs by over a third on a wide-range of products and created a freer international market for goods.
December 5 President Clinton, along with the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in Budapest, Hungary. The treaty eliminated more than 9,000 warheads.
January 23 President Clinton signed the Congressional Accountability Act that required Congress to abide by the same anti-discrimination workplace rules that applied throughout the rest of the country.
January 31 President Clinton authorized the U.S. Treasury Department to make an emergency loan of up to $20 billion to Mexico to forestall a financial crisis that threatened the interconnected Mexican and American economies.
April 19 In an act of domestic terrorism, a bomb planted in a truck parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, exploded, killed 168 people and caused massive structural damage.. In the days following the tragedy, Clinton, in widely-praised efforts, spoke with victims and to the country about how to recover physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the attack.
July 11 The United States extended full diplomatic recognition of Vietnam, twenty-two years after the U.S. withdrew military forces from that country.
August 30 NATO, with a strong contingent of American forces, began two weeks of air attacks on Serbian positions.
October 23 President Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin met in Hyde Park, New York and continued to discuss ways to improve relations between their two nations, especially with regards to nuclear arms reductions. (St. Dept. Chronology)
November - December President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, led by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), engaged in a political death struggle over how to balance the budget by 2002. Because no agreement could be reached, certain parts of the federal government were shut-down, furloughing over a quarter of a million government workers.
November 21 In Dayton, Ohio, the representatives of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia agreed in principle to a peace agreement, brokered by American Richard Holbrooke, to end three years of war in Bosnia. The agreement established a unitary Bosnian state and allowed refugees to return home.
November 29 – December 2 During a tour of Europe, President Clinton urged the continuation of peace efforts in Northern Ireland.
January 23 President Clinton, in the annual State of the Union address, declared that “the era of big government is over.” More important, he positioned himself as a centrist, moderate Democrat for the upcoming presidential election, and he hoped that these types of pronouncements would blunt Republican charges that he was too liberal.
April 9 President Clinton signed a bill that gave him the power of the “line-item veto,” which had been requested by Presidents Reagan and Bush. With this new power, Clinton could veto specific items in spending and tax bills, without vetoing the entire measure.
April 10 President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have outlawed a certain type of late-term abortions, namely the partial birth abortion. Clinton emerged during his presidency as a strong advocate of the “right to choose,” often stating that he hoped abortions in the United States would be “safe, legal, and rare.”
April 29 Vice President Al Gore attended a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. Gore and the DNC raised over $60,000, but in doing so perhaps questionably interpreted a number of campaign finance laws. The Clinton administration came under increasing criticism in its second term for these alleged violations.
May 15 President Clinton announced that American troops would likely remain in Bosnia as the major component of an international peacekeeping force for an additional eighteen months.
May 28 In the first trial to result from the Whitewater investigation, Jim and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, Clinton’s friends and former business partners in the Whitewater affair, were convicted of fraud.
August 21 President Clinton signed a health care reform bill that he expected to expand coverage for many Americans. The measure specifically allowed workers who changed or lost their jobs to keep their health insurance coverage.
August 22 President Clinton signed a welfare reform bill that radically restructured the American welfare system. The provisions of the new law limited recipients of welfare benefits and enacted a “welfare to work” initiative.
September 3 President Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike against Iraq after Saddam Hussein led a siege against the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq.
September 24 An overwhelming majority of United Nations members, including the United States, agreed to a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons testing.
November 5 President Clinton, with 49% of the vote, defeated Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), with 41% of the vote, for the presidency. Clinton became the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win re-election to a second term.
December 5 President Clinton selected Madeline Albright, American ambassador to the United Nations, to serve as his secretary of state. After winning Senate confirmation, Albright was sworn in on January 23, 1997, becoming the first women to hold the position. (Dept. of State Chrono)
March 11 The Senate voted 99-0 to approve an investigation into the “improper” and “illegal” fund raising tactics of both the White House and members of Congress. Allegations by Republicans and some Democrats of illegal fund raising by the Clinton White House spurred the investigation.
March 21 President Clinton and President Yeltsin of Russia met at Helsinki, Finland, and agreed to begin negotiations on another nuclear arms reduction treaty (START III) as soon as both nations had ratified START II. The United States Senate had ratified START II in January, 1996.
April 24 The Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which made the production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons illegal.
May 2 The Clinton administration and Republican congressional leaders agreed in principle to a five year budget plan that would eliminate the budget deficit. The plan would be accomplished largely because of the strong economy of recent years. (NYT, 5/3/97)
May 27 In a decision that affected both the scope of presidential power as well as the immediate future of the Clinton presidency, the Supreme Court ruled that Paula Jones could pursue her lawsuit against President Clinton, even while he was in office.
August 5 President Clinton signed legislation that provided for a balanced budget by 2002, ending years of partisan wrangling between Clinton and Republican leaders.
October 3 Attorney General Janet Reno, in a letter to Congress, announced that the Justice Department’s investigation into allegations that the Clinton Administration violated campaign finance laws, especially in their efforts to finance the 1996 presidential campaign, had uncovered no major violations. (NYT, 10/4/97)
October 28-31 President Clinton welcomed President Jiang Zemin of China for a state visit.
October 31 President Clinton ordered the United States government to contribute $3 billion to an international bail-out of Indonesia totaling over $22 billion. The Clinton Administration argued that the bailout would help stabilize the shaky financial situation in southeast Asia.
January 20 News breaks that President Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with a former White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton, adamantly denying the allegations, stated, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
March 23-April 2 President Clinton went on a six country tour of Africa, the first for an American president since 1978.
April 2 A judge dismissed Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.
April 10 Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland signed the “Good Friday Peace Accords,” a substantial agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process. President Clinton had worked very hard, with several personal appeals to leaders on both sides, to bring about the agreement.
August 7 Terrorists bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224, including 20 Americans. American intelligence believed that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile and alleged terrorist leader, was behind the attacks. On August 20, the United States military, under orders from President Clinton, launched strikes on “terrorist related facilities” in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s country of residence, and Sudan in response to the terror attacks. The attacks on Sudan, however, came under particular scrutiny, as a number of international observers and the Sudanese government, contended that America’s attacks destroyed a civilian pharmaceutical facility, and not a chemical weapons plant, as the Clinton administration reported.
September 11 The Office of the Independent Counsel released its report on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, commonly known as the Starr Report. Two days before, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had told the House that he had uncovered information that may be grounds for impeachment.
October 23 After nine days of negotiations in rural Maryland, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the Wye River Memorandum. President Clinton mediated the negotiations, which resulted in an agreement highlighted by a three stage withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.
December 16 President Clinton ordered a three day bombing attack against Iraq after Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.
December 19 The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton on two charges, perjury and obstruction of justice.
January 20 President Clinton delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in remarkable circumstances: the Senate had six days earlier convened an impeachment trial against the president. Despite the impeachment process, public opinion polls showed Clinton with his highest ratings.
February 12 The Senate acquitted President Clinton on both articles of impeachment, by rejecting one article and splitting evenly on the second.
March 24 In response to Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Albania, and allegations of ethnic cleansing, the United States led NATO attacks against Serbia. On February 23, Serbian and Kosovar representatives had agreed to a plan that would have granted more autonomy to Kosovo over a three year period. Serbia reneged on the agreement.
June 10 The NATO air campaign against Serbia ended after Serb forces agreed on June 9 to withdraw from Kosovo. KFOR, an international peacekeeping force of 50,000 troops enforced the agreement.
October 13 The United States Senate voted down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would have banned the United States from underground nuclear testing.
November 15 The United States and China agreed to a trade treaty that would reduce tariffs and other trade barriers. The treaty would come into effect after China joined the World Trade Organization and Congress granted permanent normal trade relations between the two countries.
February 1 The Labor Department announced that the nation’s business expansion had reached eight years and 11 months, marking the longest economic expansion in American history.
March 8 President Clinton sent a bill to Congress asking for permanent normal trade relations with China. After House (May 24) and Senate (September 19) approval, Clinton signed the bill on October 10.
June 3-5 President Clinton held his first summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They reaffirmed their nations’ commitment to strategic arms reductions, but disagreed about American plans to research and perhaps develop a missile defense system.
July 11-26 President Clinton hosted Israeli leader Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David in the hope of reaching a peace agreement. After two weeks of unsuccessful talks, the summit broke up with no agreement.
August 14 President Clinton spoke at the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. Vice President Al Gore won the Democratic nomination for president. His challenger was Republican Governor George W. Bush of Texas.
September 20 Independent Counsel Robert Ray, announced that his investigation had not uncovered enough evidence to indict the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings.
October 7 In Serbia, President Slobodan Milosovic, after disputed elections that he tried to have rigged in his favor produced massive protests in the streets, announced that Vojislav Kostunica was the rightful president of Serbia.
November 7 On election day, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush ran so closely that no winner could be declared. Only after the Supreme Court ruled on December 13 that there would be no recount of Florida’s contested votes did Gore concede the election to Bush.
January 20 Texas Governor George W. Bush inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States.
1. Carruth, Gorton. The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates. 10th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
2. “The Clinton Presidency: Eight Years of Peace, Progress and Prosperity.” Available at http://clinton5.nara.gov/WH/Accomplishments/eightyears-02.html. Last visited 24 April 2002.
Policy Issues Covered in The American President:
Health Care Reform
Budget Battles, 1995
Starr, Lewinsky, and Impeachment
Janet Reno, Attorney General
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