Gingrich Talks Government Shutdown

Posted August 6, 2008 at 11:27am

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) predicted Wednesday during the fourth day of Republican protests at the Capitol that Democrats would lose a potential government shutdown fight over offshore oil drilling.

The offshore drilling ban expires Sept. 30, and some conservatives have urged President Bush to threaten to veto any bill that extends it, including a routine stopgap spending bill keeping the government open.

“Are they really prepared to close the government in order to stop drilling?” Gingrich asked of Democrats. “I think the public would think they’re insane. … I don’t see how the Democrats could possibly sustain a suicidal strategy like that.”

Gingrich played the key role in forcing the last government shutdown, in 1995 and 1996, when Congress tried to force President Clinton to back the Republican budget.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said a shutdown would backfire on Republicans.

“The Republicans haven’t had much luck with shutdowns in recent years, and I can’t imagine that this would be any different,” he said. “The American people want to see progress, they want to see comity, they want to see bipartisanship. They want to see some action, not shutdowns. I can’t imagine they would fare any better this time.”

Gingrich, meanwhile, predicted Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will lose a vote on oil drilling on the first day back from the August recess because of pressure from House Republicans amid public frustration over high gas prices.

“I believe that she will lose a vote on the floor Sept. 8th unless she offers a very dramatic change,” Gingrich said as Republicans repeated calls for Pelosi to cut short the August recess for drilling votes.

“I think the pro-energy Democrats are going to split with her and they’re going to join the Republicans. … If the Democrats are smart they’ll cave and pass a bill.”

Gingrich said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) would be able to force a vote on the first day back.

As for the GOP protests, there is no end in sight, with about 18 Members expected to show up Wednesday and more to clamor for an end of recess during the rest of the week and beyond.

Gingrich also called Pelosi’s maneuver Friday to adjourn early, turn off the microphones, turn off the lights and prevent Republicans from giving speeches before a C-SPAN audience on the House floor a “classic abuse of power” that had galvanized the minority, likening the maneuver to the strong-arm tactics of former Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas).

“The energy level has shifted between the two parties in the last two weeks,” Gingrich said, adding that he thought the public was starting to shift its blame for high gas prices to Democratic leaders who are blocking votes on drilling.

And he said that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) had started to shift to allowing some offshore drilling but that he should call Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to come back to town and pass a bill.

“If the Democrats don’t find a way to pass a big energy bill, I think they are in extraordinary trouble by October,” Gingrich said.

Pelosi’s office, meanwhile, issued a release asking the “Top 10” questions for Republicans, ranging from why they have opposed Democratic bills aimed at boosting energy efficiency and selling of part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to why didn’t the Republicans adopt a comprehensive energy plan when they were in charge of the House for a dozen years.

Geof Koss contributed to this report.