Republicans Talk About Government Shut-Down Over Spending; White House Pounces on Promise of “Gridlock”

Sep 12, 2010 9:01am

On Friday at the Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing, a convention for conservative activists, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., a vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, discussed how a Republican-controlled House of Representatives might lead to a stand-off on spending that leads to a government shutdown.

The White House has seized on this as an example of how the Republicans are a party of the past and how voting for House Republicans in the midterms will mean “the same stalemate and gridlock they brought the last time they were in charge.”

At the conference, after Westmoreland mentioned a similar shutdown in 1995 during the era of then-Speaker newt Gingrich R-Ga., the crowd started applauding.

"That's what I wanted to hear!” Westmoreland said. “A good clap for that!"

“If we hold the line, if we get those courageous men and women to be part of our majority, if we say: ‘Look, we’re in a partnership with the American people, we’re listening to the American people,’ this is what we’re going to do. If government shuts down, we want you with us,” Westmoreland said. “We want you with us.”

He continued: “We gotta have you because later on you all will call us and say, ‘Look I didn’t get my check,’ ‘Daddy can’t go to the VA,’ you know, ‘National Parks are closed.’ We need to be sure that you are with us because let me tell you, this is what all Americans need to understand. We need to understand this and I hope you can help share this analogy with people, just as when you talk about what is going to possibly happen.”

He said, “You know I was unfortunate to cut myself with a chainsaw. I don’t know how many of you have cut yourself with a chainsaw. Chainsaw is not the cleanest instrument if you’re going to cut yourself.”

The doctor told Westmoreland “’This may sting a little bit,’” he recounted “and it hurt like crazy. But you know what? If he didn’t clean out that wound, it would have never healed. I would have got gangrene. I would have lost my leg. I would have died from it. And what has happened with this country, we have put Band-aids on some things that need to be cleaned out. And so it’s going to take some pain for us to do the things that we’ve got to do to right the ship and we want you to be with us.”

The liberal group Think Progress has posted some audio of Westmoreland’s speech: Slate’s Dave Weigel also covered the speech.

Late Friday night, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer posted a blog in which he quoted Politico’s coverage of the Westmoreland speech under the headline “Another Government Shutdown?”

Pfeiffer mentioned how Republicans had blocked a small business lending initiative “(b)ut for any who thought that blocking even such common sense measures was the limit of how far Republicans in Congress could go in putting partisanship ahead of getting Americans back to work, the Vice Chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign committee (the NRCC) was across town making clear that they were prepared to go much further.”

Pfeiffer noted that this was not “the first time shutting down the government has been put forth by prominent conservatives.”

Gingrich, for example, earlier this year at a breakfast sponsored by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform, said if the GOP recaptures the House and Senate its leaders should refuse to fund the health care bill.

"The president has got to make it into a positive political issue to veto the appropriations bills.” Gingrich said. “Remember, the only person who can close the government is the president.”

Republican pollster Dick Morris has said similar things, writing in The Hill in April that a GOP-controlled Congress pushing for tax cuts, ”will lead to exactly the same sort of government shutdown – when Obama vetoes the budget – as discredited the GOP in 1995-1996 and led to Clinton’s re-election.”

But Morris who worked with Clinton at the time, predicted that this time “history will not repeat itself. The Republicans will win this confrontation with the White House. Everybody in America knows that Obama has increased spending out of all proportion. Everyone knows that higher taxes would be devastating. And the Republicans must capitalize on these convictions so deeply held by the vast majority of voters to prevail in the coming deficit wars.”

Seizing on Westmoreland’s comments to paint the Republicans as a party of the past, Pfeiffer wrote that while President Obama “is offering a vision about how to move the country forward and help middle class Americans and small business owners, Republicans in Congress are busy telling partisans and Republican party activists to get prepared for the same stalemate and gridlock they brought the last time they were in charge.”

-Jake Tapper

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