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. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    President Obama should face down the Republican traitors in Congress!

    September 29, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Nicole Hamilton

    The "Tea Party" sub group of the GOP is extreme right, ideological, small minded, petty, divisive, mean spirited, racist and is more interested in it's own agenda and power and that of it's greedy corporate contributors than in the strength, democracy and unity of America as a whole. It plays well to the naive, suggestable, ignorant, and uneducated segments of our society, those very persons who stand to lose the most if it achieves ultimate power. It is the party of Hitler in mid century Germany and look how that played out for that country and the world.

    September 29, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  3. Tom

    I think Clinton is right and Republicans have made a major error by spending too much time in their own echo chamber. It seems as though the Republican party (or Tea Party faction of it) have convinced themselves that public disdain for Obamacare is greater than the potential political fallout for shutting down the government. If you spend all your time immersed in right-wing news/commentary this logic probably seems sound. But outside the conservative echo chamber disdain for holding the country hostage to promote a political ideology is seen as far worse than a healthcare program that needs some fine tuning. I think that's why the Democrats are willing to sit back and watch this train wreck happen. Republicans don't have the votes to overturn Obamacare and the anger over shutting down the government is going to fall mostly on the Republicans.

    September 29, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  4. Been There Done That

    Just had a fantasy, a "what if" moment, where "somehow", the continental US states, could be split into two distinct countries.
    And Republicans, were in one, and Democrats, in the other.
    No more of this tearing us apart, but actual choice made, life started anew, and future's begun.
    And I wonder what those would look like in ten years or so?

    September 29, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. Dan

    I learned something huge this morning when watching Ted Cruz this morning on Meet the Press. He said (paraphrasing) "The best way for Americans to get health insurance is to get a job." That's when the light bulb went on for me. The Republicans WANT workers to depend on depend on EMPLOYERS for healthcare. That dependency makes it easier for republicans to manipulate the labor market! If employers can healthcare no matter what, they become more mobile in the labor market. That will give workers a lot more power. This would be a huge problem for their ideology.

    September 29, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. joejeffrey

    Of course Clinton is right. This is an attempted strongarm robbery by Republican fanatics, enabled by a Speaker whose highest priority is retaining the Speakership, not standing up for what is right. Boehner has surrendered all his power to the Taliban wing of his party. God help America is Obama does not stand his ground.

    September 29, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. El Lobo

    As much as I detest Bill Clinton he is probably right on this one. We have a political faction that all almost relishes the though of economic melt down and chaos. Bohner has lost all control of his zealots expects that if doesn't go along with his renegades he will lose his seat. It will be seen how much damage a "shutdown" will cause before the idiots in the teaparty cry uncle. This will a sad time for all. Let the blood letting begin.

    September 29, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Frank

    you can't negotiate with someone who's only strategy is to destroy and obstruct any ideas that they don't subscribe. The far are political terrorist in many respects.

    September 29, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Dan

    Bill Clinton is a smart man, but even an idiot can see that the GOP is simply taking a tantrum. They only control 1/3 of the government. If the people wanted them to have their way, we would have given them a majority in the Senate, too. We didn't.

    September 29, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. brian

    Yes, Obama was elected as a Democrat. He will betray the majority of voters if he becomes a lap dog of the Republicans. And they wonder why half the people don't vote in this country.

    September 29, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Draconian cuts? Like it won't take food off the table for low AND middle class wage earners anyways? Yes. Expansive government with Robin Hood ethics to keep re-election on the horizon into the next regime. Commie Amerika!!! America is sick of it.

    September 29, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  12. Caveman

    Bill left with a surplus? omg .... Brain washing is worse than I thought.. Perhaps if Clinton had taken care of taliban after the their 1st attack on trade ctr then maybe just maybe Bush would have not needed to go to war? Hows the nations debt been under Obama? oops

    September 29, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. wstwood

    anyone know how much stock clinton and obama have in the insurance industry? I smell a fink.

    I have medical coverage and they are going to force me to buy this new crap I dont want?


    September 29, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Birchview

    The whole charade is just like the past. Republicans push for lower spending and to not raise the debt ceiling, while the Democrats claim fowl and say the Republicans want to bring our great country to its knees. Dems will finally win because the Republicans don't know how to market their ideas. After all the rancor and mud slinging, spending won't be curtailed and the debt ceiling will be reset to a new record high and we go down the same path we've been on for a long time.

    Both side think the other side is totally wrong which is further enhanced by all the one sided crap on this board. Read it, it's embarrassing. Who would compare their fellow countrymen to the most radical extremists and worst terrorist groups in history? I need to quite reading this but for some reason I keep getting lured in hoping that someone will actually lay out some solid ideas... I'm still waiting...

    September 29, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Name Uche Agonsi

    For governance decision, if you will give me the collective view of a dozen Gingrich plus all the Repubs opinions put together over the view of President Bill Clinton for a choice, I will definitely not hesitate to go the Clinton way.

    September 29, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. Nodack

    Hey if you think its a winning strategy to hold America hostage until you get your way go for it. There is Zero chance Democrats are going to shelve Obamacare just because Republicans are threatening to shut down America. They know this, so I'm not sure what they expect to accomplish other than hurting the economy and their re-election chances.

    September 29, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. mickinmd

    There are GOP House Congressmen who are frustrated that Boehner would engineered things to prevent their bills to modify Obamacare from getting out of committee. He would only consider killing the whole program. That tells you the power of the for-profit healthcare industry's influence and desire to make sure Americans are bled dry by medical costs.

    September 29, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  18. Susan

    Excuse me! But Bill Clinton was, along with FDR, the best president of the last century! The tea party are a bunch of traitors! I don't trust any of them. They would destroy this country just to get their way. God help us if they ever get the presidency!

    September 29, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Mark Goshgarian

    Clinton thinks they are bluffing??? The tea party knows deep down their is no chance of stopping ObamaCare, at least while Obama is in office, yet they have voted to defund the law 43 times... and he thinks they are BLUFFING??? The truth is the tea party doesn't believe in small government, they believe in NO government. They are anarchists and by shutting down the government, they will be getting everything they want. They don't want the government to function.

    September 29, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. California Grandma

    Bush has nothing to contribute to political reparte... Please. A C- student?
    Cheney was all over the control of the country. Bush is a puppet with no words of his own.
    Reasons why he has nothing to say.

    September 29, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. edpeters101

    I would agree if I thought it was a bluff, I honestly think they are "CRAZY". Especially when they let Cruz make a reputation as a leader and a tough guy at the House of Representatives expense! They don't call the Speaker of the House BoneHead for no reason! YMMV

    September 29, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Doc Ray from Ohio

    Republicans know that they are losing the trust of voters, both in terms of ideas and demographics. They tried to obsess about abortion until some of them started blurting out about rape. They tried bigotry against the LGBT until state after state approved marriage equality. Their final stand: call ACA Obamacare and hope there are enough bigots left who'd oppose a law that a black President created.

    Majorities of not just African Americans, but Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Jewish Americans, youth and women vote against the GOP. Their staple–old White males–are getting fewer in number with each election, thanks to the aging process and immigration. This is the time for them to make a grand stand. If they take the country down with it, fine. They have no future any way and neither should any one else.

    September 29, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. Carl

    Republican policies promote economic health, Democrats figure out ways to spend it.

    September 29, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. Bob

    We ain't bluffing obummer. SHUT IT DOWN!

    September 29, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. BriHudson

    Extremely funny how the Democrats have twisted "everything" around on the Republicans. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Republicans voted to fund EVERY part of the government, just not Obamacare.

    And from this, the American people (....that would be us)...are supposed to believe Republicans want to shut down the government? Seriously? It's extremely clear that the DEMOCRATS are the ones wanting to shut down the government, just to make the Republicans look bad. I'm not buying it.

    September 29, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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