Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who presided over Republican fights with President Bill Clinton that shut down the government in 1995 and 1996, says the GOP should challenge President Barack Obama’s threat against Social Security and other government checks.
During a CBS News interview Tuesday, Obama said the debt stalemate jeopardizes Social Security checks. "This is not just a matter of Social Security checks — these are veterans' checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out . . . I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August Third if we haven't resolved this issue.
Tuesday night, GOP presidential candidate Gingrich told Sean Hannity on Fox News that Republicans should pass a $100-billion cut in spending immediately, with the balancing factor of a $100 billion increase in the debt limit.
"That takes us all the way through to September," Gingrich said. "And they should call that the Social Security Payment Guarantee Bill. And then they should say to the president, 'Here, we've taken care of August. All you have to do is get Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats to pass it. You sign it. We can guarantee every senior citizen their Social Security check. Now, Mr. President, are you prepared to stop senior citizens from getting their checks?'"
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Earlier Tuesday, Gingrich recalled the 1995-96 budget battle during a campaign stop in South Carolina, saying, "In that process, the American people looked up and said they wanted a smaller government.
"What Republicans shouldn't do is try to back down from this fight," Gingrich said to loud applause from about 150 people at a town hall meeting of the Charleston Tea Party. South Carolina is holding the South's first GOP primary.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered on Tuesday to hand the president powers to avert the first-ever government default threatened for Aug. 2. But Gingrich said he doesn't know what McConnell is trying to accomplish.
"The Washington media will tell you we made a huge mistake closing the federal government in 1995 and 1996," he said. "I will tell you as one of the people who did it — baloney."
He said Republicans in Congress during his time showed the American people they were serious enough about balancing the budget they were willing to let the government close.
"I would say to the Republicans in Washington today that you have to have the courage to stand for what you believe in. You have to trust that the American people are smarter than the elite media thinks they are and the political consultants think they are. You have to be able to go nose-to-nose with the president to win the argument."
"When you do, the country will award you with a dozen more seats in the Senate and 30 or 40 more House seats and a Republican president and we will have this country back on the road to prosperity," Gingrich said.
It was Gingrich's second visit to South Carolina since announcing he would seek the GOP presidential nomination.
On Wednesday, he speaks to executives from the South Carolina's electric cooperatives during a meeting in Charleston.
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