Gingrich to GOP: Push Obama to last-minute deadline 

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says GOP negotiators in Washington should push debt-ceiling talks to the deadline -- and beyond -- in an effort to pressure President Obama to agree to spending cuts.  Speaking after a Tea Party town hall meeting here, Gingrich suggested that the new McConnell plan -- which Gingrich earlier called "an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits, and continued overspending" -- is a tactical blunder in a fight that should go to the very last moment.

Gingrich cited a passage in Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs in which Grant, worried that his troops were fatigued and frightened, learned that enemy troops were just as fatigued and just as frightened.  "The other guy gets tired, the other guy gets scared," Gingrich said, urging Republicans to remember that the White House and Democrats have their own fears in the debt-limit battle. Switching from war to football, Gingrich continued: "Vince Lombardi used to argue that the team that broke last won the game, and he trained the Packers to have enormous endurance for that reason.  Fatigue makes cowards of us all."

How does that apply to the debt-ceiling talks?  "I would say that you don't know until one o'clock in the morning on the second of August what deal the President of the United States is going to cut in order to avoid being the first president in American history to default," the former House Speaker said.  "The Republicans shouldn't accept all that burden.  They ought to say, he's the president -- how can he live through a default?  Why would you want to reduce the pressure one minute?"

Gingrich also proposed a short-term plan of his own to counter Obama's threat that Social Security checks might not go out if there is no agreement by August 2.  "House Republicans ought to pass a $100 billion cut with a $100 billion debt-ceiling increase, which takes care of all the Social Security checks in August," Gingrich said.  "Say to the president, 'OK, we've taken care of everybody who needs to get a check in August.  Are you going to tell Senate Democrats to block it?  Are you going to veto it?'"

Asked whether he would send his proposal to Republicans in Congress, Gingrich smiled and answered, "Oh, I think I'm telling them."

Despite his admonition to fight to the end, Gingrich refused to say that McConnell had caved to pressure to raise the debt ceiling.  But he cited the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 as examples of battles in which Republicans refused the back down and -- despite declarations of disaster by many in the press and some Republicans -- eventually prevailed. "I have no idea what [McConnell's] motivation is," Gingrich said.  "I do know from my experience that we got to four balanced budgets, we got to welfare reform, we got to the first tax cut in 16 years because we weren't prepared to back off.  Clinton eventually came to the realization he could only function as president working with us, because we'd never back off."

About The Author

Byron York


Byron York is the Examiner’s chief political correspondent. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He blogs throughout the week at Beltway Confidential.

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