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. Logic N LA

    Name Frank Deery: I guess your memory is failing you. In an attempt to get the Republicans on board for healthcare, the single payer option disappeared. taxes on the wealthy were reduced. Other funding generation cut or lowered. This bill was originally cost neutral. the appeasing is why it now requires money from other sources. And they STILL ddid not vote for it. Now they try to rewrite history and think this is the bill originally proposed.

    September 29, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. DaveLake

    RS- Regarding "The Right has chosen a bad future for themselves and our nation. I see no reason to accommodate their brand of crazy." I could not have said it better myself.

    September 29, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. Jeffrey2099

    I think Obama should accept the delay of the individual sense they already delayed the business mandate. 1 year is not important. He can defuse this if he chooses to.

    September 29, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. kiki

    The GOTP did that to this great country.

    September 29, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. sick

    A republican created and implemented the ACA and now his party is refusing to do anything that they are paid to do. Lets put in Bill as King.

    September 29, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. wronglong

    I'm sick of the GOP. They are a spoiled child holding his breath until they get their way.Shut the government down, let them take the blame. I'll never support the GOP unless they change and take care of the majority instead of their puppeteers.

    September 29, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. moderate bob

    a house divided against itself will not stand ie republican party and tea party cruz

    September 29, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Thomas

    When the GOP"S see a 10-20% drop in their Investment portfolio's and interest rates jump on bonds due to no other nation wanting to invest in our debt.These elected officials who are holding this Government hostage may become hostage s themselves by inflicting financial disaster on their own family and friends.How stupid can they really be.GOD SAVE AMERICA

    September 29, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  9. Hugh_Mann

    America: "Us" against "Them"

    September 29, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. NYNJCT

    Dear Bill, you are NOT the PRESIDENT of USA for now. Please be quite.

    September 29, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Roscoe Chait

    It's time to shut down the Republican Party and have a new party emerge, one that cherishes its duty to the people of this country.

    September 29, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. Jim Beam

    .....gridlock and dysfunction is very profitable once you have the deck stacked and record profits rolling in–keeps it stacked.

    The nation's problems and the plight of the masses of formerly hard-working middle class Americans ? Not even on the agenda.

    September 29, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. Nik

    With the Republicans it has been and continues to be Party first, Country last. They see healthcare reform as an issue for 2014 where they can continue to demonize Obama and lambast a law that few yet people understand. That opportunity will be gone once the public sees the benefits of healthcare reform. I understand that a fair and balanced approach is to see fault on both sides; however, in this case of voting to defund a law passed by Congress, the Republicans are utter intransigent and Democrats should call their bluff and do nothing to compromise.

    September 29, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. Jim

    There is no way the Democrats and President can let them get away with this. If they did, it would set a precedent and the same tactics could be used to try and get rid of Social Security and Medicare, programs a number of Republicans wanted to see privatized in the last election. The ACA is law. Any lawmaker who encourages citizens to violate this law should censored.

    September 29, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. P Teichert

    You've drawn the line now hold your ground Mr. President. Its the right policy for our Country at this time. Do not bargain over the debt ceiling or passing a budget. Its past time for the sequester to end too.

    September 29, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. Larry in NY

    Times have changed since Clinton's days, we have the speaker who can never come to the same wavelength as Obama. Their intellect levels are different, and we have wild inexperienced Teapublicans divided with in the republican party with their own agenda to remove the president. Where were they for the past few years since the Obamacare was passed. If they did not like it , they should have worked with the Dems to modify and make it work for the people of the country. After all it was their idea tried in Massachusetts. Negotiation is a dirty word for them, they would shoot first and then talk. This will never work

    September 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  17. Sanju

    Repugs poem:

    I'm a little Tea-Bum Short and Stout "
    " Here is My Anger and here is my Pout "

    " They Raised My Taxes and they Left Me Out! "
    " I Got No Power and I Got No Clout !! "

    September 29, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  18. Sanju

    GOP =
    Greedy Obsolete Prunes
    Grind our Poor

    September 29, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  19. shabba shabba

    Obama is not up for election. Who do you think the voters will blame if the Govt. shuts down and stock tumble ? Hint....not Obama. The voters will take out their frustrations on the Congress. Mostly Republicans.

    September 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. Normal In NH

    This is going to be extremely entertaining from a political perspective. Slick Willy is going to have nothing but 'sound' advise to ensure ol' Uncle Joe gets cast in the worst light possible in 2016. I like when politicians eat their own.

    September 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Keith of Colorado

    The government will shut down on Tuesday, potentially disrupting millions of citizens, because the 'Grand Old Party' wishes to dismantle the 'Affordable Health Care for America Act.' Sounds anti-American.

    September 29, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  22. Sonny in Denver

    It should be clear to most sane Americans by now that we have to take our country back from the Tea Party in 2014.

    September 29, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Ken

    Wrong Mr. Clinton (only impeached president and disbarred member from Arkansas) it's not "Give us what we want...." it's what the people of America want. Delay that trainwreck. The left is out to destroy our country and they need to be stopped.

    September 29, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. T. Storm

    They aren't bluffing.... IJS

    September 29, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Annie Isom

    I agree with Pres. Clinton!

    September 29, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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