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. Paul L

    Clinton is right - today's GOP is all scorched-earth hyper-partisanship. They act now like Obamacare just came roaring up out of nowhere... a dragon that they must slay at all costs. Even if the price is the entire US economy's survival. They deny the FACTS: that "Obamacare" aka the Affordable Health Care Act, has already been compromised this way and that, back when it was negotiated and PASSED as law of the land. In other words, the GOP is fighting an Obama-led, but bipartisan-negotiated, law that has been passed by the democratically elected Congress members.

    September 29, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. Michael Stewart

    The President should let these Republicans follow through with their intentions. Clinton is right. They will be held responsible for any fallout if a shutdown occurs. ACA is law. Congress passed it and Bush's pick for Chief Justice was the deciding vote. The GOP picked the wrong fight.

    September 29, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. samuel

    why cant we print our own money and use it to pay our bills instead or relying on foreign nations and the federal reserve as was the case ante 1913?

    September 29, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. Michael Benjamin

    It is leadership failure, leadership failure on the part of Republicans who want it all their way.

    September 29, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. equality for all


    Anti women, anti black, anti immigration, anti gay, anti medicare, anti medicaid, anti affordable care act, and anti 47%

    More importantly, the GOP is ANTI WAR VETERINS!

    They just voted in the past few weeks to stop business from having to have a 7% quoto on hiring WAR VETS for construction jobs!

    This statement can be verified by goggling the above.

    September 29, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Corey

    Do your worst GOP. Please. Bring this country to it's knees so that even the dumbest person can see the light and vote your worthless party out in 2014 and finally begin to restore our nation.

    September 29, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. FactsHurtLongTime

    A missing part of this whole cluster is recalling the original make-up of The Tea Party. It was then composed mostly of older, cranky, white males (Get off my lawn!) who didn't want to pay ANY taxes, wanted government out of their lives and unfortunately – a significant number had varying measures of racism in their fiber. This holds true today in The Tea Party base.

    If they want lower taxes and have less government – they need to drastically cut defense spending. Oh wait – that would mean at least a million Americans more out of work. That means less consumer spending and then an even weaker economy. The fact is – those cranky old white men did not care about any of the rest of America – period. And that is more realistic of today's Tea Party base. Face it – a black president drives them nuts. Granted, there are other reasons for their insanity but let's not forget the racism segment of their grass roots.

    September 29, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  8. john deatherage

    Every year, the federal debt grows larger. At some point, we have to begin paying down the debt. Why not start now?

    September 29, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  9. Richard

    I agree. Call their bluff. The time has come. Let's put an end to this ultra-conservative arrogance and extortion once and for all.

    September 29, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  10. Jo

    They need to fix the gerrymandering which left the Republicans in control of the House

    September 29, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  11. Tony in Maine

    Any good leader knows that you do not ever negotiate with terrorists – it only encourages a repeat of the behavior.

    September 29, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  12. Patrick

    This is all about one side not wanting to be the losing side. Americans mostly all agree that Obama Care is not right for the U.S. right now. Why won't our congressman listen to the American public on this?? What is going to be worse for the country right now.."shutting down" the government for a few weeks or years of crap health care? I say shut it down and keep it closed until This "Affordable care act" is gotten rid of.

    September 29, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. James Madison

    I remember when the GOP under Gingrich had to shut down the government twice... to get Bill Clinton to sign a balanced budget he wanted nothing to do with.

    September 29, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. American Worker

    For the American Workers that are expected to pay for the ACA; This is not a bluff.

    There will be serious consequence for both parties if the ACA is not Delayed and Repealed.

    If the Federal Government can't be shut down for more than a few weeks, then it is tool involved in our personal lives and must be pruned.

    September 29, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Brent

    The GOP wants so badly for President Barack Obama to fail. They tried like hell to destroy his first term, to destroy his presidential legacy. They are obviously even willing to hurt the country as long as they can smear his name. With obstruction as their stated objective, and their staunch insistence that ObamaCare is so wrong and destructive for the American people, why are they fighting it so hard? If ObamaCare is so horrible, wouldn't they just let it launch, let it destroy the country, let it ruin the president and the Democratic party, let it pave the GOP path to the White House in 2016? Get out of the way and let him fail... Am I missing something?????????????

    September 29, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Everyone knows you don't negotiate with hostage holders. They'll just do it again.

    September 29, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  17. sammy750

    Speaker Boehner has never negotiated with Obama in good faith. As in the past, he always back away for any deals. The Terrorist Tea Party holds their guns at Boehner head, so he gives in to them. At some point the American people need to take back the government from the current crazies in Washington, DC. We need to take over the Government and push out the hijacking lawmakers. There only mission is to destroy us. How about a billion people march on Congress and send them back home. They are getting paid for doing nothing but destroying us and the nation.

    September 29, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. Clarke

    Shut it down and take the blackmailing GOP terrorists with it. They are acting like children who can't have what they want and that is the goodie package. We tax payers pay more for the goodies than the actual legislation and bills. They trade goodies for their yea vote. This is wrong on so many levels. They wonder about the budget, get rid of the goodies. We the people are being raped by the people we elected and I have had enough.

    September 29, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. JakeF

    "You – not me – you voted to spend this money."

    It's really that simple.

    September 29, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. Hawk in Texas

    The failure of leadership is solely in the hands of the republicans. the republicans in the house know that they can not kill the ACA it is the law of the land. and it is here to stay for now. they can't defund it. they are playing strictly to their small warped minded tea party nuts. and that is going to cost them dearly.they have been told by the news media and even their own party that a shutdown will do them great harm.i for one hope that the president holds their feet to the fire and not give in. the way that they are trying to hold america hostage to get their way really amounts to treason.

    September 29, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. sammy750

    It is interesting most of G. Bushes Debt was never in the budget. Obama had to add it in when he took office. The Bush Republicans were playing games with the budget for 8 years. They didn't want the American people to know how big a debt they were creating. Now the Republicans deny Bush every created a debt, yet he created the largest debt of any President.

    September 29, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  22. Roy Carter, Jr

    The Tea Party should be classified as terrorist! In November 2004, a United Nations Secretary General report described terrorism as ANY act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act"

    September 29, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. Mymy

    Have face to face meeting with Boehner? Him and Obama in the same room hashing out a deal? LOL... has Newt not heard the news? Republicans won't let Boehner negotiate a deal, they will tell him no to any plan he tries working out. LOL, Boehner is not the leader of the house, he is the head of a daycare who only does what the children want.

    September 29, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. some guy in New Hampshire

    Let the GOP shut down the government - and spend a couple of needless billions in the process of shutting it down and starting it back up - then let them force a default and reap the global economic wreckage. Then they can go to the voters in 2014 and 2016 and run on their record of wise governance.

    September 29, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  25. davecu

    Where's the "Great Unifier" playing golf today.

    So, do I have this right?
    535 mutts over-spend our tax money intentionally and WE the people, have to pay for it. Is that right?
    Isn't that taxation without representation?

    September 29, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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