Newt Gingrich: Founding Fathers Liked Shutdowns

There are moments when different branches of government cannot reach agreement. Shutdowns are an expression of those differences.

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Joe Marquette / AP

Rep. Newt Gingrich is sworn in as House Speaker, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 1995 in the House chambers on Capitol Hill in Washington.

In 1995 and 1996 there were two government shutdowns.

Tensions were high.

Harsh words were used on both sides.

And yet common sense also existed and conversations continued.

Ultimately President Clinton and the Republicans in Congress reached agreements which led to cuts in spending, welfare reform, the first tax cuts in 16 years, and the only four consecutive balanced budgets in our lifetime.

The tension today is similar, but in some ways there are more differences. Back in 1995-96, there was the understanding that government shutdowns were an unpleasant but integral part of the legislative-executive power struggle. That power struggle is built into the American Constitution. The Founding Fathers wanted to protect freedom by separating powers so every branch had to negotiate with the others. They believed the legislative branch was closest to the people and in peacetime the most important branch. That is why the Constitution devotes Article One to the Congress.

They knew a powerful executive was needed to run the government and to serve as Commander in Chief in wartime. (These were men who had just fought an eight-year-long war with Great Britain and before that some of them had been in the seven-year-long French and Indian War.)

Finally, they wanted a Judiciary Branch to supervise the laws. They deeply distrusted the British judges who they saw as agents of the government and so they made the Judiciary Branch the third article. In the Federalist Papers they assured Americans that the judges would be the weakest of the three branches.

Because power is split, there are moments when the different branches cannot reach agreement. In those moments, the tension builds. Government shutdowns are an expression of those differences.

Back in 1995, we were used to shutdowns as part of the negotiating process. Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill had twelve shutdowns during his Speakership. Not so today, as seen both in the news media and in the hysteria of President Obama and the Democrats. Until this week, there had been seventeen years without a legislative-executive confrontation that led to a shutdown.

That period is now over.

There are very deep and profound differences between the House Republicans, who won the 2010 election opposing Obamacare, and President Obama, for whom this is his greatest legacy. The President won in 2012. What he and his allies refuse to acknowledge is that the House Republicans also won in 2012. In the American system when both sides win there has to be a negotiation. Neither side can demand surrender from the other.

President Bill Clinton understood this requirement of negotiation, communication and compromise. There is no evidence President Obama believes he is required to negotiate, communicate, or compromise with a Congress which opposes him. In fact, there is a lot of evidence he believes he is superior to the “People’s House.”

If the president begins a phone call with the words “I will not negotiate,” as President Obama did last Friday with Speaker Boehner, it is pretty hard to see how they can find a common ground. That was not President Clinton’s style at all.

House Republicans have to be prepared to compromise but so must President Obama and his Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Faced with a president who refuses to negotiate, the House Republicans have to stand firm. A collapse of the House Republicans would teach President Obama that he can get away with virtually anything he wants. It would lead to a frightening three years and ultimately an even bigger crisis.

There is a path to a negotiated agreement but it requires both sides to negotiate. In 1995-96, both sides knew they were subordinate to the Constitution and they had to reach an agreement. It is not clear that this is true today.

Newt Gingrich is a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a new host of CNN’s Crossfire. He is the author of many historical novels, including his latest, Victory at Yorktown. The views expressed are solely his own.

551 comments
ThomasHall
ThomasHall

Josh--The extremist GOP baggies as "traditional" there is nothing tradition about a political cult that acts as political terrorists and anarchists that do not believe in compromise, hates the government, and wants to shut it all down particularly any government organization that might hold them accountable like the EPA. IRS, Dept. of Energy, etc. They are not thinking of the good of the country or the American people as a whole. They are the most selfish of a GOP that already puts partisan politics ahead of the country. Thanks to the GOP's elections-rigging gerrymandering these radicals are in safe districts so do not have to play nice with others. The GOP created a monster that is liable to devour the party.

BruceWage
BruceWage

Love Newt Gingrich ! Well said.

barneydidit
barneydidit

" The President won in 2012. What he and his allies refuse to acknowledge is that the House Republicans also won in 2012.

:"  Uhmmm, actually the House Republicans LOST seats to Democrats in 2012, and a significant percentage of those that kept their seats did so only through gerrymandering of the districts.  But as always Newt...nice try. The Republican Presidential candidate ran on a platform of repealing Obamacare "On day one" (well, except for when he denied ever saying that), and he lost handily. Clearly repealing or even delaying Obamacare is not the number one priority of the American people, but the GOP wants to keep pretending that they're speaking for the people while they hold the government hostage over this issue.

EricRobertson
EricRobertson

No one cares. We want free stuff!!!! I am willing to trade all the children's economic future for some free stuff today.

Silly Republicans, free stuff trumps logic any day of the week.

billcody
billcody

The Republicans don't want negotiation.  They want capitulation.  Completely different.  A good negotiation is when both sides give up something.  Republicans want to privatize medicare, eliminate the ACA, privatize SS, eliminate SNAP AND cut taxes for the wealthy.  They lost the last two Presidential elections but they think they own the government.  Too bad they don't.  They are most afraid that ACA will make peoples' lives better and they can't be for that.

jimink
jimink

I wonder how much a few lobbyist had to pay out to shut down the government.

ABulletForCinde
ABulletForCinde

Is Gingrich admitting that the blame (or credit,if he wants) for the shutdown now ultimately (well, actually) rests with the GOTP?  It seems he is.

Kalyan
Kalyan

With all respect due to the gentleman, when was ever a peacetime in USA history? US is always at war ..Even now, you are fighting a war in Afghanistan, threatening to start another one in Syria, your drones are all over Asia and Africa.. what do you mean by peacetime?

tsvskibum
tsvskibum

With all due respect to the gentleman from Georgia, the founders were afraid of tyranny.  They made the government, slightly dysfunctional so that one group or another (the majority, the minority, the head of state, etc.) could not their will on others without consent.  They wanted it difficult to pass laws and shape policy but the didn't want it impossible.  I cannot not see they would want the entire government to grind to a halt.

EmmaAnna
EmmaAnna

Okay, but Republicans were arguing for Democrats and Clinton to balance the budget. That's a very different discussion than this Obamcare thing. I'm certainly not a fan of most of Obamacare, but most people will agree that some of it is good and the current system needed those issues addressed. This situation right now is completely hectic, there is no strategy behind it, and all it does is take away pay from honest, hardworking people yet Obamacare goes on as planned. The moment Cruz got involved with his not-a-filibuster show, this situation got out of hand.  Republicans lost because they have no unity, they have no strategy. 

JonathanMelusky
JonathanMelusky

More lies from Newt.  Had the Clintons passed health care, then they would not have negotiated it or deleted it. The Affordable Health Care Act was already compromised, negotiated, and passed into law. Negotiation is over. 

grape_crush
grape_crush

> Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill had twelve shutdowns during his Speakership. 

Gingrich, disingenuous as usual. Unlike Boehner, O'Neill insisted - in opposition to some members of his own caucus - that even the bills he opposed were put up for a vote.

Neither side can demand surrender from the other.

Gingrich, disingenuous as usual. Shutting off funding for major governmental functions because your legislative initiatives cannot pass - failing 41 times - is a demand for surrender.

Failing that, the current fallback position of the House GOP is to whine about how Obama and Democrats refuse to negotiate with people who would hold America hostage to their demands. 

> There is no evidence President Obama believes he is required to negotiate, communicate, or compromise with a Congress which opposes him.

I'm guessing that Gingrich was asleep when the sequestration legislation was written. Or the post-2010-election compromise bill that extended the Bush tax cuts two more years. Or Obamacare itself.

> In fact, there is a lot of evidence he believes he is superior...

In fact, there is a lot of evidence Newt Gingrich frequently talks out of his arse.


739366
739366

Newt is still at it trying to justify how he defaulted on his "Contract with America" after he got elected House Speaker and then started the ill-fated power struggle with President Clinton and Newt forced a similar ill-thought out government shutdown. It gave all of us Republicans a black eye, and sealed the next elections to the Democrats. Now Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot once again, and pretty much assuring that they "piss-off" every other group in America like businesses besides already having done so with the Hispanics and Blacks with their inability to accept defeat square and fair of Obama-care and move on to getting business done for our Country instead of hurting the people, and bringing a disrespect of the Republican party, and of those who have gone to the polls in support of them in the past. Next year I think I will just sit home instead of going to the polls!

JL5
JL5

Doubt anyone really knows what they would think.  Irrelevant anyway.  At that time, US was not the world power, and the currency was not the world currency.  If that unravels, our money will be worthless and we will be paying for bread with wheelbarrows of money.  Much like other countries did in WWII era.  With the massive debt owed, it can happen and one way to get there is this stupid shutdown!

JL5
JL5

When

wandmdave
wandmdave

I'm just curious to see if the Republicans still think time is a Liberal rag.

SmailBuzzby
SmailBuzzby

Just shut up.  You have no idea what the founding fathers would think about anything.  You are not smart and no one cares what you think.

Here's what the founders would NOT have liked - pudgy know-it-all jerkwads named Newton who think they are imporant.

yodadog
yodadog

In those 2 1990's years we had a strong economy, were $4.5 Billion in debt and on the upswing. Today, 5 years after 2008, we have an economy propped up by the inflationary measures of the Fed. and a $17 trillion debt, and a ship of treasonous, bought and paid for fools, for a Congress. Us citizens need a reset button-every stinking one of them should be facing recall movements.

brenro12
brenro12

Newt left politics in disgrace. Why are we giving him print space?

nyny3a
nyny3a

so far, ours have not resorted to ieds. stay tuned.

TimJohnson
TimJohnson

He can quote whomever he wants, but Gingrich lost his seat because of the shutdowns he created.  And those were at least about budget related issues.

nyny3a
nyny3a

the Muslims have their jihadi wing, and we have ours in the Republican party

nyny3a
nyny3a

its the Jahardi wing of the Republican party that is causing on the trouble!

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"Sorry, Republicans. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes a single house of Congress to retroactively veto U.S. law by refusing to fund the rest of the government. The manner in which you’re attempting this blackmail — on party-line votes, engineered by the party that lost the popular vote — doesn’t help. The Senate and the president have no legal or moral obligation to humor your demands. Do your job, or we’ll throw you out."

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"A government shutdown comes close to challenging the Constitution itself. It represents a massive failure of understanding of how the founding document was the result of delegates balancing principles and interests."

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"Founding Fathers Liked Shutdowns" -- that is cr.p, Newt and your know it.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The Founding Father would have hated the greedy, selfish, bigoted, wimpy, narrow-minded, war mongering, war-profiteering, unpatriotic, extremist conservative Republicans.

netshark7
netshark7

Obama and Team Reid both demand submission of everyone and abjectly (boldly) state they will not negotiate on anything, then laughably blame everyone else for not capitulating or "compromising". 

gotaalife
gotaalife

Back in 1996 I was a hard core Republican contributing and working in campaigns in my home state. Bill Clinton was President and again the GOP decided to close down the government.  I was going door-to-door for my candidates and I remember people closing the doors in my face and calling me names. That year almost all of the GOP candidates in my state lost including the two candidates I was work so hard to get re-elected. I can not believe the GOP is repeating this again especially over a bill that passed years ago. I don't know what has happen to the GOP, but since the tea party movement infiltrated its ranks the level of intelligence has dramatically declined. 

robertclee13
robertclee13

Somebody shove a newt in his mouth. His opinions are irrelevant, and nobody cares.

Negotiation is a strategy used when both parties have something to win or lose in a dispute. In this case, Obama and the Dems have nothing to lose. They have already won- Obamacare is legal and is already being implemented. Obama will gain nothing by negotiating- this is a fact the the Repubs are too stupid to realize. The Repubs have a lot to lose (e.g., credibility, votes and elections), and they stand to win nothing. The longer this drags out- the more they will suffer.

LoneStunMan
LoneStunMan

Is it really a good idea for Newtie to summon up the actions of 'old, white, American guys' as some sort of guideline for how Republicans should behave in 2013?

Isn't misplaced nostalgia for the 'ancient caucasian American past' what got conservatives into their regressive morass in the first place?

BEMaven
BEMaven

I sometimes wonder if Newt Gingrich treats America History as a toy.

The men who crafted the Constitution did not conceive the Congress in the keen anticipation that Representatives and Senators would occasionally go at each other like cats and dogs.

Our two-house legislative system, and the unintentional gridlock, were the results of an awkward compromise. A compromise struck to settle the thorny issue of fair representation in a former colony with states of strikingly disportionate sizes.

Realizing that the states with larger populations would have a significant advantage, the less populous states objected to a legislature that based representation solely on even-sized voting districts. The Senate, with its assignment of two seats for each state, large or small, was devised to answer those objections.

Making the best of an contrived solution, the framers of the Constitution hoped the two houses would work towards a sensible balance in the drafting of laws...not engage in spasmodic conflict.

To suggest the Founding Fathers would welcome a complete shutdown of the system they labored hard to perfect is like saying they would welcome an exchange of gunfire between the House and Senate.

And I doubt an argument about the positive effects of government shutdowns made much of an impression on Gingrich's fellow Republican Congressman when they forced him of his post as Speaker.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

What an appalling load of BS. The Founders liked shutdowns. What a self-serving bunch of clap trap. They never had a shutdown. For Gingrich to try an position his shutdown battle with President Clinton as a negotiation is the height of gaul. He was the one who was forced to back off, and he lost his Speakership for that reason. As you can see, the new, GOP controlled Congress then was just as flexible and just a nice a bunch of guys as this current crop. You can't allow the democratic process to be circumvented by taking the government hostage. President Obama won two elections, the second where the Affordable Care Act was a primary issue, and he still won. The Republicans only maintained their House majority because of gerrymandered districts, or they would now be the minority party. You can't allow extortion to prevail because of a particular law or program. Allow this one to prevail, next year it will be Social Security, or something else. The Founding Fathers designed a democratic process, and the ACA became law through that process. You should respect it, use it to fight the law, not try to blackmail the President and the rest of the country. Grow up.


BruceWage
BruceWage

Leaders of North Korea , Iran never negotiate with anyone.

barneydidit
barneydidit

@EricRobertson Ahh...the always popular "welfare queen" argument resurrected from the Reagan campaign. Didn't you get the memo Eric- that person was as fictitious as the argument that trickle down economics works.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@nyny3a No we have a muslim in the Oval office dummy do your research is whole family dating back to africa and great grandpa all muslims, brothers , aunts dad, step dad. You live under a ?rock

EmmaAnna
EmmaAnna

@Leftcoastrocky You can't throw them out, that's the problem. And I say this as someone who is fiscally conservative. You can't throw them out because those who are running the show within the Republican Party are from small, very conservative districts. In those districts, they have support. You don't vote for those people, the general public from the given state doesn't even vote for them. In my state, those districts have just few thousand people in them. 

JoshSoffer
JoshSoffer

@ThomasHall I think the tea partyers have more in common with the founding fathers than liberals do. The right wing is traditional America, the way the majority in this country saw the world until recently. That's the problem.Human society evolves. The world has changed but the right wing hasn't.

HuufArted
HuufArted

@ThomasHall Since you have the sentiments of the Founders down so well you certainly understand they would NEVER approve of 'deficit spending" year after year and were equally repulsed by the concept of a 3rd party like the 'Federal Reserve" which is neither Federal nor a Reserve. 


Quite frankly the Federal Reserve scheme was patently rejected and warned against repeatedly but alas a Democrat President and Congress to imposed that upon us right after WW1. There would be no fighting over the "defaulting on the interest payments" had we not been saddled with the Federal Reserve systems control over our money supply and the Interest we pay on the Principle...

robertclee13
robertclee13

@netshark7 As I pointed out below: Negotiation is a strategy used when both parties have something to win or lose in a dispute. In this case, Obama and the Dems have nothing to lose. They don't need to negotiate. They have already won- Obamacare is legal and is already being implemented. Obama will gain nothing by negotiating- this is a fact the the Repubs are too stupid to realize. The Repubs have a lot to lose (e.g., credibility, votes and elections), and they stand to win nothing. The longer this drags out- the more they will suffer.

The only ones laughing (at the Repubs) are the Dems.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

@netshark7 So far, bozo, all GOP negotiations have included defunding or delaying (so they can later kill) the ACA.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

@gotaalife "since the tea party movement infiltrated its ranks the level of intelligence has dramatically declined." not only intelligence, but also morality, fair play and patriotism.



HuufArted
HuufArted

@BEMaven Since you have the sentiments of the Founders down so well you certainly understand they would NEVER approve of 'deficit spending" year after year and were equally repulsed by the concept of a 3rd party like the 'Federal Reserve" which is neither Federal nor a Reserve. Quite frankly the Federal Reserve scheme was patently rejected and warned against repeatedly but alas a Democrat President and Congress to impose that upon us...

There would be no fighting over the "defaulting on the interest payments" had we not been saddled with the Federal Reserve systems control over our money supply and the Interest we pay on the Principle...

MattChappel
MattChappel

@BEMaven 
"
To suggest the Founding Fathers would welcome a complete shutdown of the system they labored hard to perfect is like saying they would welcome an exchange of gunfire between the House and Senate."

First, I would argue that our current government is NOT the system the founders labored hard to perfect. It is a perversion of the system they worked to perfect.

Second, I would argue that your metaphor is purposefully extreme in an attempt to incite emotion. A government shutdown is, in no way, shape or form, like gunfire being exchanged.

netshark7
netshark7

Attacking Gringrich without addressing the real problem of Obama blatantly demanding total submission without compromise or negotions isnt reasonable.

Philiopo
Philiopo

@JoshSoffer @ThomasHall You do realize that the conservatives during the American Revolution sided with the British? Read your American History.

CarolSmith1
CarolSmith1

@HuufArted @ThomasHall Well, perhaps we should take all the elderly, disabled, poor, non-white anglo saxon and sick, and put them all in a "concentration camp" (because they obviously cost the country more than they're worth) and just feed them bread and water until they die off naturally or gas them all at once and then the wealthy white anglo-saxon americans can live happily ever after with their money and Republican party and the deficit would or should get under control.  Only, who would they target next?  Who would they hate? Who would they fight?  Perhaps they would eliminate one another until there is only one supreme being left.  Oops, that title is taken. Jesus was not a Republican. He helped the poor, healed the sick and threw the money changers out of the temple. 

robertclee13
robertclee13

@netshark7 Why shouldn't Obama demand total submission? The Repubs are holding no cards of value whatsoever, and the Dems know it. Let it drag on- every day that it does will result in the Repubs weakened more and more.

The most effective strategy that the Repubs can pursue is to make the Teabagging blowhards like Cruz form their own party. 

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

I disagree about the real cause of the problem. Shutdowns have only been done in the past over immediate issues. This is the first te it has been done to try and repeal a law passed three years ago. Gingrich conveniently left out nature of the past disagreements. Of course, when Reagan shut the government down he was heroic. When Obama does it he's a dictator. It's blackmail, wanting ransom for something Republicans tried but failed towin in Congress, in the Supreme Court, and in a Presidential election, and cannot be permitted. No President could permit it. Future Presidents would held up again and again.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

When did the Founding Fathers have a shutdown? It's an absurd statement. There was even a country yet.

joshsoffer1
joshsoffer1

Today's conservatives were the liberals of the 1700's, and today's liberals will be the conservatives of the next century.Read your history of liberalism.