From NBC's Catherine Chomiak and Mark Murray
With the government due to shutdown at midnight, former House Speaker and potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich accused President Obama of using American troops as political bargaining chips.
"President Obama is deliberately seeking to hold the men and women in uniform and their families hostage, so that politicians can fight over the budget and use the threat of not paying the troops as their weapon -- because liberals know once you take care of the military, most of America is going to say fight it out for a while," Gingrich told the audience at Liberty University's Awakening Conference.
Gingrich was referring to Obama's veto threat of GOP legislation that would fund troops in a government shutdown. However, the legislation also included a funding ban of abortions in Washington, D.C. -- an unacceptable poison pill for Democrats.
After his speech today, Gingrich -- who was speaker during the last government shutdown in 1995-1996 -- told members of press that if he were president, he would have been involved months ago in trying to find compromise on the budget to keep the government open. While Gingrich said you have to compromise, he said compromising on the fundamentals is out of the question. "Let's talk about what our principles are, and then let’s have the courage to follow the principles through to policy," he urged.
"If they can't find some way to work their way through this, they have much bigger problems coming down the road," he added. The 112th Congress still has the 2012 budget and the debt ceiling on the docket.
In 2012 news, when asked about potential presidential competitor Donald Trump, Gingrich called him a very inventive and interesting person. "He adds a lot to the race," Gingrich said. "Frankly, for a Republican Party that sometimes is a little bit dull having somebody like Trump hang out is going to guarantee that you all have a lot more to cover."