During the Jan. 23, 2012, Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Newt Gingrich repeated a claim he’s made about his record in balancing the budget as House speaker.
"When I was speaker, we had four consecutive balanced budgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we've had four consecutive balanced budgets," Gingrich said. "Most people think that's good."
We’ve checked this -- such as during the Dec. 15, 2011, Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa -- and never found it to be accurate.
Gingrich was speaker from January 1995 to January 1999, when he was a Republican congressman from Atlanta’s suburbs.
The federal budget runs on a fiscal year calendar that begins October 1 and ends September 30. During fiscal years 1996 and 1997 -- the first two that Gingrich helped shape as speaker -- there were deficits: $107 billion in 1996 and about $22 billion in 1997.
By fiscal year 1998, the federal budget did reach a surplus of $69 billion. And in fiscal year 1999 -- which Gingrich can claim some responsibility for, even though he was out as speaker for most of the fiscal year -- it was in surplus as well, to the tune of $126 billion.
But that’s only two balanced budgets he can plausibly claim credit for. The federal government did run four consecutive surpluses, but for the last two of those -- fiscal years 2000 and 2001 -- Gingrich was no longer serving in the House.
It’s also worth noting that even the two balanced budgets for which Gingrich can claim some credit were collective accomplishments by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Gingrich was off-base with this claim -- again. The budget was indeed balanced for four years, but it’s a stretch for him to take credit for anything more than two of those years. We rate Gingrich’s claim False.