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Flashback Friday: ‘BTUed’

Here’s a phrase from the past that you might not know the story behind

The term “BTUed” dates back to President Bill Clinton’s first year in office. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The term “BTUed” dates back to President Bill Clinton’s first year in office. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Here’s a congressional throwback — a phrase or part of Capitol Hill culture that a younger generation of Hill staffers might not know.

‘BTUed’

The term (rhymes with rude) dates back to the Clinton administration. It was coined in 1993 during a debate on legislation to reduce the deficit, which included a proposal to tax the heat content — measured in British thermal units, or BTUs — of most forms of energy. 

President Bill Clinton lobbied for House Democrats to vote for the tax, and most of them did. But he didn’t try as hard with Senate Democrats, and the proposal didn’t even see a vote in that chamber. 

House Democrats were not pleased that they gave in to Clinton’s push to vote against their best interests, according to a 2005 CQ magazine piece. Democrats lost control of both chambers the following year in the Republican revolution.

Hence getting ‘BTUed’ = getting screwed.

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