Clinton says Obama needs to call the GOP's 'bluff'
September 29th, 2013
11:52 AM ET
9 years ago

Clinton says Obama needs to call the GOP's 'bluff'

Washington (CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton, who sat in the Oval Office during the last government shutdown, supports President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with congressional Republicans and argues he should call their "bluff" as the government nears a possible shutdown and default.

"He could stop it, but the price of - the current price of stopping it is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and taking their medicine," he said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

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Clinton went on to say that House Republicans, having realized they have little chance of pushing through legislative items their party wants, have dug in and scrapped any plans of negotiating. "Give us what we want or we're going to shut the government down," Clinton said, describing how he sees the GOP strategy.

"I think under those circumstances, the president has to take the position he's taken," he continued. "Which is 'You - not me - you voted to spend this money.' … You can't negotiate over that. And I think he's right not to."

Obama has repeatedly vowed he won't bargain in the upcoming debt ceiling debate. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by October 17, the government won't be able to pay its bills.

Republicans frequently point to Clinton's tenure, when he negotiated with congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling in 1996.

But Clinton argued Sunday that was a different period in time, saying the negotiations then were "extremely minor" and the stakes at the time were not as large: "The economy was growing and the deficit was going down."

He said while he was criticized for agreeing to lower the capital gains tax during those negotiations, in return he got the children's health insurance program, which ultimately led to coverage for 10 million kids up through Obama's first term.

"That's what lawmaking is. It's that kind of compromise," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Clinton's former communications director in the White House. "There's no opportunity for that in this forum. We don't have enough time. They don't want - they're mad because they don't want to negotiate."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was at the helm of the House in the 1995-1996 showdowns, told CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this week that he was able to work with Clinton because the former president was able to "compartmentalize," compared to Obama.

"It wasn't that we were friends, but we both understood that you had to find a way to work for America, even if as political rivals," said Gingrich, who's now a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." "We were little bit like two graduate students in that we would get in a room and we started talking and theorizing and remembering books and doing stuff. But in that process, you begin to get away from what you couldn't do and you begin to gradually work your way to what you could do."

"My guess is that we spent more days together than Obama and (House Speaker John) Boehner has spent minutes together this year," he continued. "The president has to come off with his high horse. Boehner has to also say they may now be able to get everybody in his party to vote for something."

Clinton, however, encouraged Obama to stick to his stand.

"I think there are times when you have to call people's bluff," he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

Republicans have signaled they plan to attach a number of items – including tax reforms and provisions to roll back regulations on businesses - in the upcoming debt limit debate.

"If I were the president, I wouldn't negotiate over these draconian cuts that are going to take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else. I just think it's - it's chilling to me," Clinton said.

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Congress • President Obama
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Ohreally

    Richard Long, how is it a sign we can't pay our bills? We can pay our bills, but the GOP is refusing to allow us to pay our bills. And please stop with we are leaving debt to our children BS. Fix the economy and the debt goes away. This fight isn't even about the debt. The debt is coming down. This is about but hurt GOP wanting what they couldn't get through congress by vote, so they will try it by hostage.

    September 29, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. Kman

    Clinton had a surplus? If you believe spending more than you budget then raiding various trust funds to make up the difference plus a little extra to claim a surplus then yeah I guess so.....

    September 29, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  3. texasgreenacres

    I Agree with Clinton SHUT HER DOWN IF YOU DARE! It's your neck on the chopping block not Obama's GO FOR IT!

    September 29, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Wiilliam Cho

    You Republicans in the House, you are the sour loosers, no matter how you slice it, to the eternity!!!

    September 29, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  5. 333maxwell

    I'm so sick of the GOTeas clownish antics. Give them another year of the uncertainty that has already been impacting our very real 'world' markets, and 'they' will have us all dead and buried alive.

    2014 could not come soon enough.

    September 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  6. kay

    The gop's Reagan raised the debt limit many times ,as did Bush. Their problem is they lost the white house and they need to move on.

    September 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. McGee523

    If only we could get a political mastermind like Clinton as President again. When it comes to pure politics, he blows every president out of the water in at least 3 decades.

    September 29, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  8. belinda

    Logic prevails.

    September 29, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. Czyz

    First, the Obama Care bill has many flaws. It raises the cost of insurance for many Americans, does nothing to control costs, penalizes business plans that are too rich or too meager, and increases the deficit.

    That said, the Republicans are acting like petulant children who can't get their way. Why don't they try modifying the bill to fix it? I'm sure the Democrats also realize the bill has many problems, and could likely be persuaded to modify certain provisions. Whatever one thinks of Obama Care, it's a reality that will not go away, so the next best thing is to make it better. Shutting down the government as a show of force will not endear the Republicans to voters in the next election.

    September 29, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  10. a obamintion

    congress needs to hold off on a budget until obama is replaced with a president!...

    September 29, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  11. Tim

    Blah blah blah, fire all of congress. Epic fail left and right. Either way I haven't received a penny from the government and have paid (way too much) taxes my whole life so having the government 'shut down' won't be the end of the world. They are all squandering tax payers money anyways. Don't lift the ceiling cut spending like any economically responsible household would do to not go BANKRUPT.

    September 29, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |

    I say we stick to our principles, and not let the do nothing Dems do what they do best; NOTHING. It's about time our party sticks it to Obama, Reid and Piglosie. STAY TOUGH GOP! 2016 will look brighter!

    September 29, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. Lib

    I,m for calling the WH and demanding the President Stand his Ground.

    September 29, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
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