At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich outlined a two-tiered strategy for the GOP if they win elections in 2010 and 2012: 1) Refuse to fund any of Democrats’ “radical efforts” if Republicans win control of Congress in November, and 2) Repeal “every radical bill passed by the [Democratic] machine” if Republicans win Congress and the presidency in 2012.
Basically, Gingrich seemed to be advocating a shutdown of the federal government similar to the one he orchestrated in 1995. Today, ThinkProgress attended a blogger briefing hosted by the Heritage Foundation and asked the former Speaker whether he believes his strategy could possibly lead to a government shutdown, and if he thinks conservatives should embrace that possibility. Gingrich replied that if a shutdown does occur, it would all be President Obama’s fault:
GINGRICH: Well, look — I think that would be up to President Obama. As long as the Congress passes an appropriations bill, the President would then have to decide to sign it or veto it. If the President decides on an unpopular issue that he is going to veto the Congress’ restraint of spending, I think the Congress should tolerate that.
I think having a fight over — I’m not for shutting the government down. I wasn’t for shutting the government down in ’95. But I was for drawing a line in the sand and saying we weren’t going to allow the President to coerce us into doing things we didn’t believe in. [...]
But we will have the votes to not pass any more money. And clearly under the Constitution, all money has to originate in the Congress. So it’s perfectly legitimate for the Congress to say, I can’t as a matter of good faith to the very people who elected me, give you money to do something they elected me not to do. Now if the President then wants to force a crisis, you’d have to see how the crisis worked its way out. But I’m wouldn’t be sure going into it, how it would work out.
And it might be that you could isolate what you’re fighting over. Pass an appropriations bill that is everything except the health bill, and then pass an appropriations bill just for the health bill. Now, he would then have to decide to veto all the parts of government you’re not offending, in order to try to raise public pressure. That’s a pretty hard thing for him to sustain, even with his rhetorical skills.
At a breakfast this morning sponsored by the American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform, Gingrich also said that “the only person who can close the government is the president.” Watch his remarks at the Heritage Foundation:
Gingrich’s government shutdown was incredibly unpopular with the American public. His personal disapproval ratings reached a high of 65 percent, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said that Gingrich “made the mistake of his life.” In 1996, even Gingrich himself admitted that “‘our strategy failed’ because Mr. Clinton and his allies, instead of surrendering and making a budget deal, ‘were tougher than I thought they would be.’”
It seems that 14 years have led to a change of heart. At today’s Heritage event, Gingrich argued that Republicans did “win” after the shutdown during the Clinton administration. “Tell me in what way we didn’t win,” Gingrich said, adding, “We took on a liberal Democratic president. We stopped the government in its tracks. We moved to the first four years of balanced budget in a generation. We had the lowest rate of increase in four years since Calvin Coolidge. And we got re-elected for the first time since 1928. Which of those is bad?”
Heritage’s Mike Brownfield has more on Gingrich’s remarks today.