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. WooWooDehumbug

    The shrub squad didn't wreck the US enough so the Tea Party fanatics are here to finish the job. LOL!

    It hasn't even been a year yet and they forgot who won the election. And it wasn't even close!

    September 29, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  2. Rick

    I hope congress falls flat on their face over this issue. This idea that health care is a bad option for America is misguided. Nobody wants the stock market to crash 10% erasing millions of people's recent retirement gains over a decent issue. If they worked together they could improve government and inspire job growth. The shutdown will do the opposite. I just drove my bike down a tea party road and I tell you it isn't that great.

    September 29, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  3. wotudezerv

    the GOP is bent on ruining the america we real americans fought for. they despise the working person and only care about licking the boots of their masters – the corporations. fine. let them ruin america. we real america loving americans know what to do about these cowards. and we will. clinton is right. obama is right. the GOP is in the pocket of the corporations and afraid of their own measly brained Tea Heads. Shameful to be that and call yourself an american. well, my boots are shined and i will join all other people of good faith in this nation by putting my boot into the behind of these running scared cowards.

    September 29, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. scott r plewa

    Let the Republicans hang themselves. HILLARY 2016.

    September 29, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  5. Rick

    The Republican Party somehow needs to split with the Tea Party, should they fail to do so they might not survive for long.

    September 29, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. ReaderPm

    I fully agree with Former president Bill Clinton's view about Health care Law, Govt. shutdown and Debt ceiling. As a proud American, we have to think for the country's pride and prosperity on the whole where people are coming from all over the world to make this country as a "World Model" from their hard work and hope to have peace within all communities living in USA and the World.

    September 29, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  7. are122

    I wonder what the debt ceiling will be when this disaster leaves office.

    September 29, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. wstwood

    yeah. is it any surprise? Clinton says shut down the government. he has millions, he gets paid no matter what. WHat about us retired military who count on our Veterans benefits and social security? this is terrorizm plain and simple. but it does not surprise me from these rich people.

    September 29, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. David

    If Obama has killed Osama Bin Ladin with his own hands, the Republicans would complain that he took a job away from a Navy seal. The Republican's strategy is SO very transparent. All politicians are political to a certain degree – including Democrats. Let's not kid ourselves. But modern Republicans have taken politicization of issues to a new level; what is good for their party is now the ONLY criteria they have for the stand they take on an issue. And I say this as a former Republican myself. It's so obvious; the only way you can miss this is if you are not looking carefully (which is what the Republicans are counting on).

    September 29, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. ItSoNlYmE

    The President absolutely needs to call the GOP's bluff on this one. If he does, it will spell the end of the GOP/Tea Party's grip on the throat of the country. It may well lose them the House in the next election, which is exactly as it should be.

    September 29, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Evergreen

    Richard Long – Sen. Obama's speech was made during the time President Bush was fighting two wars that were not paid for, a drug prescription plan that was not paid for and tax breaks for the richest Americans and corporations. When President Obama talks about paying for spending that has already occured, this is what he is talking about.

    September 29, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  12. Ancient Texan

    Amazing- It is Obama that has stated he will NOT Compromise. He will negotiate with Terrorist Iran, but not with his fellow Americans?

    September 29, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Jimmy

    To hell with it. Shut the government down.Let the chips fall where they may but shut it down and lets see where they fall.Obama has been destroying this country in increments,lets go all out and see who survives.The Chinese and Russians are laughing their butts off.

    September 29, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. SeeThruIt2

    This is no bluff by the Republicans. The time is up. If the government shuts down on Tuesday, it is because Reid and Obama made the decision to do so.

    September 29, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. Ancient Texan

    Anthony in California- Clinton didn't leave a surplus. He was trying to count the Social Security receipts with regular tax revenues. The last year of the Bush administration, the deficit was only $194 billion, and Obama has run over a trillion dollar annual deficit every year.

    September 29, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. Skarphace

    The problem with Clinton's argument is that the Teapublicans are not bluffing; they want the government shut down. Remember the words of Norquist, "Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." Teapublicans feel that they win with a shutdown.

    Instead of letting Teapublicans get away with destroying our credit and our economy, Obama needs to take the only option left to him: invoke the 14th Amendment. In other words, abolish the debt ceiling once and for all. Once this is done, government will go back to arguing over the budget instead of holding the country hostage every time the debt ceiling is reached. Better for America, better for the world.

    September 29, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. Lucky Lee

    Clinton is delusional to imply this is not a problem on both sides of the aisle. There isn't a liberal Democrat out there, including Obama, who is willing to compromise either. GOP wants to repeal Obamacare, a balanced budget and reduced debt. Dems want Obamacare fully implemented, a deficit budget and greater debt. There are compromise positions for each of these issues, and no one will be totally happy. But you have to sit at the table to get there and neither side will do that. And we all lose.

    September 29, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. Scott

    Republicans in Washington are dumb for planning to shutdown the government.

    September 29, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. vishnu

    This Health care bill was not Hastily written
    This Bill was caraefully crafted on the basis of Mass Bill
    and Clinton Bill proposed in 1995.

    In any event why not give it a try and fiix any
    glictches as it is implemented ?

    September 29, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. a obamintion

    obama's calls congresses bluff and he will be out in the street!!

    September 29, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. rker321

    There comes a time in all our lifetime, that we must stand up and be prepared to take what may come, The time is now. Yes, let them shutdown the government, But to continue to live in fear for the next few years, of a Party that the minute that they don't like whatever, they simply put this nation in the situation that we are all seeing, then any American that has self respect, cannot allow any political Party to do what this Republican are doing to this country. They have abused their power, When a minority of this population thinks that they can hold this country hostage and blackmail any of us in orter to obtain what they want, then it has come a time that we must all fight and gain our self respect. We cannot say that we live in a Democracy and have these action happen,

    September 29, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. Skarphace

    NameFrank Derry: you do realize that a government shutdown will not affect the ACA, right? With a government shutdown, what happens is that government employees will go broke, our credit rating will be hurt once again, and there is a chance that the dollar could be replaced as the world's default currency. The ACA funds itself and will not be stopped with a government shutdown.

    Do Republicans think the rest of us are stupid? We know very well that you do not care about the ACA. All you want is for the government to be shutdown on Obama's watch so you can blame him for our bad economy.

    September 29, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. LINDA VO

    I had been a Republican; however I am sick of their policy, their offspring now. They do not care about the country at all, and they only serve for a small percentage of population: the richest. American wake up to vote them out of Congress in 2014.

    September 29, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. ed dugan

    You can't call somebodies bluff if their IQ is smaller than their hat size. The Republicans are nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats so let them have their way and watch them self-destruct. I can hardly wait.

    September 29, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. bailee

    I totally agree with President Clinton! President Obama must stand tall and refuse to back down on his decision for no negotiation. If he doesn't do so, then this type of "Republican Grandstanding" will continue every time we come to a debt ceiling issue and a budget issue! And you know why the Republicans keep going with this behavior? Simply because they did not President Obama to be elected in 2008, and on the day of his inauguration, they were meeting behind closed doors to find a way to get rid of him, and make him a one-term President!! Just let them go right ahead and shut down the Government. I'd like to see ALL of them squirm, including the select few of Tea Partiers when that happens!

    September 29, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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