In September of 2000, a six-year $50 million investigation into the Clinton’s Whitewater real estate deal ended when an independent counsel was unable to find sufficient evidence to file criminal charges. Two months later, Hillary Clinton was elected as a US Senator representing the state of New York. Clinton created the final scandal of his presidency when he issued 140 pardons and 36 commutations on his last day in office, January 19, 2001. Even Democrats and people close to Clinton spoke out against some of his pardons, especially when it was discovered that Hillary’s brother was paid $400,000 for his help in securing a presidential pardon.
Clinton, determined to overhaul health care in the US, made his wife Hillary the chair of the President’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform on January 25, 1993. Her resulting 1,342-page plan presented to Congress sought to offer universal coverage, regulate the private market, and require employers to provide insurance, among other changes. Facing strong opposition to this ambitious plan and lacking Democratic support, this reform effort finally ended in September of 1994. The Clinton Administration’s attempt to reform health care is seen as one of its greatest failures. Republican opposition was insurmountable and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME) declared on September 26, 1994 that Clinton’s plan would never pass. The failure is considered the biggest of his administration in part because it led to the Republicans regaining control of Congress in the next election but also because he expended a lot of political capital without getting anything in return.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 increased the gasoline tax by 4.3 cents per gallon, which directly impacted the middle class. The 1993 tax hikes cannot be credited with the economic boom of the 1990s: it was after the Republican Congress passed tax cuts in 1997 that the economy really became stronger and the budget was balanced. Clinton designed his tax plans to place an unfair burden on the wealthy, punishing the most productive members of the US economy while cutting taxes for the least productive.
The last few years of Clinton’s presidency were marked by several scandals related to his personal life. A sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones on May 6, 1994 picked up steam on May 27, 1997 after the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Clinton could not postpone the trial while serving as President. Depositions from that case exposed the news that Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with then-22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky between 1995 and 1997. He initially denied the allegations under oath, in a deposition and in front of a grand jury, and in a press conference, claiming “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Seven months later, the president admitted there had been a relationship that was “not appropriate.” On December 19, 1998 the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton, only the second time in US history that a president was impeached. The charges were perjury (lying under oath) and obstruction of justice. The Senate needed to convict Clinton with a two-thirds vote to remove him from office. The Senate vote was 45-55 to convict on the perjury charge and 50-50 on the obstruction of justice charge, so Clinton was acquitted and remained in office.