The Washington Post

Gingrich and cap-and-trade: a flip-flop?

“I’ve said publicly, sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi is the dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years. But if you notice, I’ve never favored cap and trade, and in fact, I actively testified against it. I was at the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee the same day Al Gore was there to testify for it, I testified against it and through American Solutions we fought it in the Senate and played a major role in defeating it.”

— Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Dec. 3, 2011

“I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.”

— Gingrich, Interview on PBS’s “Frontline,” Feb. 15, 2007

Every politician makes mistakes, although few are willing to admit it. Gingrich’s ad with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on climate change is certainly amusing in retrospect.

But what of the Republican presidential candidate’s claim that “I’ve never favored cap and trade”? Rival campaigns immediately pounced, sending around quotes from a PBS interview in which Gingrich appeared to say the opposite, suggesting support for a limit on greenhouse emissions. The conventional wisdom holds that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has a flip-flop problem, but does Gingrich?

The Facts

As Slate columnist David Weigel has noted, cap and trade was once a very respectable conservative position and several of the GOP contenders have a history of expressing interest in it, to varying degrees.

Gingrich’s comment to “Frontline” certainly seems to be in support of a cap-and-trade system, given that he speaks in favor of “mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system.” He refers to a similar program for “sulfur,” which appears to be a nod to a successful program designed to reduce acid rain.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told ABC News last month that the candidate was speaking in support of “a very limited program” when he made those remarks in 2007, unlike cap-and-trade proposals the Obama administration has pushed unsuccessfully. Hammond did not respond to requests to expand on that statement.

The Pinocchio Test

By all available evidence, Gingrich has changed his position on cap and trade. That’s fine, but it is disingenuous of him to claim that he has “never favored cap and trade.”

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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.


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