Stephen Slivinski

How Speaker Newt Gingrich Betrayed the Republican Revolution

Stephen Slivinski is senior economist at the Goldwater Institute. Previously he was director of budget studies at the Cato Institute, senior economist at the Tax Foundation, and a senior editor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Mr. Slivinski is the author of the book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, published in 2006.

One thing that makes Newt Gingrich an attractive presidential candidate to many conservatives is his term as Speaker of the House and his role as the captain of the Republican Revolution of 1994. But a closer look at the history of the years between 1995 and when he stepped down as speaker in 1998 show that Gingrich was usually at odds with those pushing the Reaganite vision of a truly limited federal government. In fact, when the Republican Revolution succeeded at all it was often in spite of Newt Gingrich, not because of him. Unfortunately, too many conservatives have forgotten this or perhaps may not have known it at all.

Gingrich does indeed come across as an eloquent defender of limited government principles. In 1995, he envisioned the new GOP congressional majority presaging a cultural revolution in Washington, D.C. “The real breaking point is when you find yourself having a whole new debate, with new terms. That’s more important than legislative achievements,” Gingrich told a reporter on the first day of the 104th Congress. “We’ll know in six months whether we have accomplished that.”

Podcast: Chatting with Stephen Slivinski

This week, Jason and Brett speak with former Cato’s Former Director of Budget Studies and author of Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, Stephen Slivinski.

The discussion centers around the Republican Revolution of 1994, how the GOP traded principles for power, the big spending, and how the fever of fiscal conservatism from 1994 compares to the tea party movement today.

To download the podcast, right-click here and choose “Save Link As…” The introduction music is once again “Silence is Violence” by the always lovely Aimee Allen.

Sanford’s Strong Fiscal Conservative Views Worry Boehner

Mark Sanford

Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders in the House are apparently worried about Rep.-elect Mark Sanford (R-SC):

Boehner on Tuesday morning suggested that he was less than thrilled about Sanford’s potential return to the House. And while the Speaker tweeted out a quick “congrats” to Sanford with the hash-tag jobs, a comment from his spokesman following the results was less than a bear-hug.
[…]
“He could be an added voice to the opposition — to those who like to make trouble for the Republican leadership,” GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a former top House leadership aide, told The Hill. “It’ll definitely be a leadership management issue.”

Sanford made it clear in Tuesday night’s victory speech that he wasn’t returning to Washington to make friends — the same approach he took when he was a thorn in the side of GOP leadership during his first stint in Congress in the 1990s, and when he fought tooth-and-nail with the Republican-controlled statehouse during his governorship.

The newly elected congressman said voters had sent a “message to Washington, D.C., and a messenger to Washington, D.C., on the importance on changing things in that fair city.”

Obama slams Republicans over debt ceiling debate

Barack Obama

Earlier today, President Barack Obama held the final White House press conference of his first term, using the opportunity to slam Republicans over the debt ceiling while making yet another call for more tax revenue — despite getting high tax rates on the wealthy in the “fiscal cliff” deal passed at the beginning over the year:

President Obama at a Monday press conference demanded that Congress raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, saying the country is “not a deadbeat nation.”

Obama said Congress should pay the bills government has already rung up, arguing would be disastrous for the economy — which he said is showing signs of lifting off — to not raise the debt limit.

“It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy,” he said. “To even entertain the idea of this happening … is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”

The president has insisted he will not negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling, and gave no sign of wavering on that position. Republicans are demanding steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.

“They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” Obama said Monday of Republicans.
[…]
“We can’t finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone,” he said. While open to “modest adjustments” to entitlement programs, Obama said, “we need more revenue through tax reform.”

Herman Cain endorses Newt Gingrich

Seeking to remain relevant in Republican politics, Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich, in what couldn’t have been a more predictable move:

The move by the former GOP candidate and tea-party favorite comes three days before the Florida primary, at a moment when Gingrich is badly in need of something to rekindle the momentum he gained in the wake of his South Carolina primary victory.
[…]
“I had it in my heart and mind a long time,” Cain said of his endorsement, appearing with Gingrich at a Republican fundraiser. “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas.”

Gingrich joked, “I had no idea it would be this interesting an evening.”

Cain is the latest in a series of popular conservative figures to back the former House speaker, while much of the GOP establishment is marshaling against him. Among Gingrich’s other recent supporters are former Alaska governor Sarah Palin; his onetime presidential rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry; and former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.).

Cain backed Romney in 2008, but both he and Gingrich are from Georgia and it was obvious during the debates that they had had an affection for each other. And while the endorsement will be played up by anti-Romney conservatives, Gingrich’s actions as Speaker of the House, such as trying to diminish the influence of fiscal conservatives, are continuing to come under fire.

Washington Examiner labels Gingrich as a Washington insider

We’ve noted Newt Gingrich’s anti-conservative points on multiple occasions, mostly recently my post yesterday on his support of an individual mandate for health insurance coverage. This isn’t the only stain on his record, it’s merely one of them. We could easily point to his support of Medicare expansion or TARP as further evidence. We could also point to Stephen Slivinski’s article here from last month explaining how Gingrich betrayed the revolution that brought Republicans to power.

Looks like we’re headed for a government shutdown

At the end of last week, I read an article from The Hill with quotes from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claiming that there was “momentum” towards a budget deal. Well, that was then; this is now. And with the short-term Continuing Resolution running out - meaning a government shutdown is a very real possibility, Schumer is now leading the rhetorical charge against Republicans:

Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”

Will we see a government shut down if the GOP takes back the House?

On Friday while speaking at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) floated the idea of a government shutdown similar to that of 1995 during the fight over the budget with Bill Clinton if Republicans win back the House of Representatives:

Westmoreland said his caucus — presuming it takes control of the House come November — aims to pass spending bills that Obama is likely to veto. He predicted Republicans would not be able to override such a veto, creating a standoff that could cause Congress to grind to a halt.

“If the government shuts down, we want you with us,” he said.

The congressman recalled a similar shutdown that took place in 1995, when Newt Gingrich — also a speaker at the conference — was serving as House speaker. A future standstill could temporarily close national parks or delay payments from the government, Westmoreland speculated.

“We have put Band-Aids on some things that need to be cleaned out,” he said. “That is going to take some pain. There’s going to have to be some pain for us to do some things that we’ve got to do to right the ship.”

Coburn is no fan of Newt Gingrich

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), one of the more fiscally conservative members of the Congress, isn’t thrilled with the idea of Newt Gingrich running for president:

“He’s the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States,” Coburn said during a town hall event in Wagoner, Okla., over the weekend, as was reported by the Tulsa World.

In explaining why he wouldn’t support Gingrich, Coburn specifically targeted the ex-speaker’s three marriages as proof that Gingrich “doesn’t know anything about commitment to marriage.”

“His life indicates he does not have a commitment to the character traits necessary to be a great president,” said Coburn, who also noted that Gingrich is a “super-smart man.”

Coburn’s comments follow criticism of Gingrich from his second wife, Marianne, who recently told Esquire that there is “no way” her ex-husband could become president.

Prior to his election to the Senate in 2000, Coburn served in the House under Gingrich’s rule and frequently criticized the then-speaker.

I share Coburn’s concern over, but for different reasons. I’m not interested in Newt Gingrich’s personal life. As Thomas Jefferson would say, “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government by Stephen Slivinski, who we interviewed here at UL back in May.

Ten books that I recommend

Yesterday, a friend asked me to send along a list of books that I would recommend for a project. So, I figured I’d pass it along, in no particular order (please share books you recommend in the comments).


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