2012 GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich has been claiming that one of his qualifications for office is that the budget was balanced for four years in the 1990s, two of which overlapped with his time as speaker of the House. “If you look at my record, the only speaker in your lifetime to get to four balanced budgets,” he said during a Fox interview.
However, Gingrich claiming that he or his House Republican majority had much of anything to do with the ’90s budget surpluses is a stretch. During an interview on NBC’s Today Show, former President Bill Clinton agreed with that assessment, responding “not really” when asked if Gingrich deserves credit for balancing the budget:
Q: Do you believe that Gingrich deserved the credit that he’s taking for balancing the budget when you were president?
CLINTON: Not really…The vast lion’s share of balancing the budget was done by the budget in 1993 that he led the opposition to. And 90 percent of the budget was before the Balanced Budget Act [of 1997].
Legislation passed by Gingrich’s House Republicans actually made the budget picture worse in the ’90s, not better, by cutting taxes and thus revenue. It was the 1993 budget — which Republicans universally opposed — that led to the balanced budgets later on.