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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gingrich, Spending, and the "Perfectionist Caucus"

Newt Gingrich is claiming credit for balancing the budget in the 1990s. But a surplus occurred mostly because of the end of the Cold War (which allowed for big defense reductions) and the tax increases of 1990 and 1993. One area where the House could have had an impact was nondefense discretionary spending. And indeed, the Gingrich-led Republicans made cuts in this area for the fiscal 1996 budget. But in his last year as speaker, Gingrich negotiated a fiscal 1999 budget that gave up all these cuts and left nondefense discretionary spending higher than it was when he came in.

Outlays for nondefense discretionary spending (billions of constant 2005 dollars):

  • 1994-350.6
  • 1995-351.8
  • 1996-335.9
  • 1997-340.5
  • 1998-348.0
  • 1999-359.0
On October 20, 1998, he gave a remarkable floor speech that criticized Republicans who opposed the deal.
I would say for just a minute, if I might, to my friends who were asking for a "no" vote, the"perfectionist caucus, "And then what would you do under our constitution?" It is easy to get up and say vote "no," but then what would they do?

The fact is, under our Constitution, 435 Members of the House, each elected by a constituency based on population, work with 100 Members of the Senate, two from each State, then we work with the President of the United States. And surely those of us who have grown up and matured in this process understand after the last 4 years that we have to work together on big issues. And if we do not work together on big issues, nothing gets done.

The fact is there is a liberal Democrat in the White House, and he legitimately represents the views of the party which nominated him. And there are things he wants in order to sign a bill, and that is legitimate and a part of precisely what the Founding Fathers established: A balance of power. And the fact is conservative Republicans control the House and Senate, much, I might say, to the discomfort of my good friend from Michigan, the Democratic whip, who seemed unhappy at his having to vote "yes" tonight. But that is the nature of reality.

So the question is: Can we craft a bill which is a win for the American people because it is a win for the President and a win for the Congress? Because if we cannot find a way to have all three winning, we do not have a bill worthy of being passed.

Now, my fine friends who are perfectionists, each in their own world where they are petty dictators could write a perfect bill. And it would not be 4,000 pages, it would be about 2,200 of their particular projects and their particular interests and their particular goodies taking care of their particular States. But that is not the way life works in a free society. In a free society we have to have give and take. We have to be able to work.