Gingrich: 'This Is Not a Dictatorship,' Obama 'Has an Obligation to Negotiate'

By Susan Jones | September 19, 2013 | 6:11 AM EDT

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich takes part in a GOP presidential debate in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

( - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led Republicans through two government shutdowns in the 1990s, says it's clear that House Republicans want to have a "very serious collision" with President Obama about spending, the debt limit and defunding Obamacare.

"And I think the (Republican) conference believes that this is not a dictatorship. We don't have to automatically do exactly what the president wants," Gingrich told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday. "[T]he president of the United States has an obligation to negotiate," Gingrich added later.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Wednesday that the House will pass a continuing resolution that funds all government operations except for Obamacare. Democrats say they will not pass such a  measure; and if legislation funding the government doesn't pass by the end of the fiscal year, the government will shut down on Oct. 1.

Gingrich said  Boehner needs to "set up the fight in the best possible way, recognizing that he's going to have substantial elements against him, but emphasizing that he wants to keep the government open, that he wants to help the economy create jobs but that there are significant things that the president simply has to negotiate over."

Boehner has no choice but to pay attention to the wishes of the Republican conference, Gingrich said: "He can't lead very far beyond them, or frankly he won't be speaker."

And if the Republicans use the continuing resolution and the debt limit as leverage to defund Obamacare and get spending cuts -- so what, Gringrich suggested:

"Well, Wolf, let me mention something that seems to shock a lot of people in the news business. The next election is November of 2014. My advice to the speaker of the House is, ignore the polls, do what you think is right. Emphasize that you want to keep the government open. They're going to pass the continuing resolution. They're going to be in a position to keep the government open.

"And I think also emphasize to the country that the president of the United States has an obligation to negotiate. This idea that Barack Obama somehow can sit in the White House, refuse to negotiate, demand what he wants and that the Congress has an obligation to obey him goes against everything we know about American history.
I think the president has as big an obligation to sit down and talk with the House as the House does to sit down and talk with the president."

Gingrich noted that previous presidents have signed debt ceiling legislation that included spending targets:

"Ronald Reagan signed debt ceilings that had Gramm-Rudman added to it which was a huge spending cut. George H.W. Bush signed debt ceilings that had things added to them. William Jefferson Clinton had signed debt ceilings that had things added to them.

"Who is Barack Obama to dictate to the nation that he is not going to follow the precedent and negotiate?" Gingrich asked. "Presidents are supposed to negotiate with the Congress. They don't dictate to the Congress. They can't just swagger around and he doesn't get to set the terms of the debate. Both sides have to come to the table. Both sides have to find a common ground. But the president, in my judgment, makes it very hard to do so given his attitude."

Obama: 'Happy to negotiate'

Speaking to the Business Roundtable on Wednesday, President Obama said he's heard people talking about previous negotiations around raising the debt ceiling:

"It's always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we're running up our debt. So people don't like to vote on it and typically there's some gamesmanship in terms of making the President's party shoulder the burden," Obama said.

"And if there is a budget package that includes the debt ceiling vote, it's not the debt ceiling that is driving the negotiations. It's stuck into the budget negotiations because if you're going to take a bunch of tough votes anyway, you might as well go ahead and stick that in there.

"You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt."

President Obama said he's "happy to negotiate" with Republicans on long-term entitlement issues and the budget. "What I will not do is create a habit, a pattern, where the full faith and credit of the United States (the debt ceiling) ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy. It's irresponsible," he said.

Obama said he has "responsibilities...not just to the current generation but the future generations, and we're not going to set up a situation where the full faith and credit of the United States is put on the table every year, or every year and a half, and we go through some sort of terrifying financial brinksmanship because of some ideological arguments people are having about some particular issue of the day. We're not going to do that.

"So the good news is that we can raise the debt ceiling tomorrow just by a simple vote in each chamber and set that aside and then we can have a serious argument about the budget."