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Former Speaker and possible 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) urged Congressional Republicans on Tuesday to package the debt ceiling increase with the repeal of the health care reform law and dare Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama to oppose it.
In a radio interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Gingrich said House Republicans should pressure politically vulnerable Senate Democrats to side with Republicans in supporting health care repeal. He also challenged Obama to support the combined measure or risk an economic crisis if the U.S. does not raise the debt ceiling soon. Members are expected to have to deal with the debt ceiling by early summer to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its obligations. The House previously passed a repeal of the health care law, but it has gone nowhere in the Senate.
“I personally favor passing the repeal of Obamacare, putting it on the debt ceiling, going to the country. The House Republicans have the votes to put it in the debt ceiling. They should do it very early. And then they should go to the country and focus attention on the Democrats in the Senate. There are 23 Democratic seats up in 2012,” Gingrich said, according to a transcript of the interview. “And we ought to try to bring enough pressure to bear on individual Democrats like [Sens.] Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida that we are able to actually get the repeal of Obamacare through the Senate, and then say to the president, if you want to meet your constitutional obligations and avoid a crisis on the debt ceiling, you either have to sign the repeal of Obamacare, or you have to provide a comparable $2 trillion in savings.”
Gingrich also said House GOP leaders should not fear the backlash over a government shutdown, contending that the shutdown of 1995 paid dividends for Congressional Republicans in the 1996 elections. The government would shut down on April 9 unless Members reach a deal on a long-term spending plan or agree to pass another continuing resolution.
“I don’t understand the fear that’s involved. We were elected in 1994 under the 'Contract With America.' Part of the contract was to balance the federal budget. We set out to balance the federal budget. The Clinton White House did not want to initially and fought us over it. There was a government shutdown,” Gingrich said. “When we got to the election of 1996, no Republican House had been re-elected as a majority since 1928. And after the shutdown, we were re-elected as a majority. We lost a net of two seats from what we had won in 1994. And so I wonder, when people say to me, ‘Boy, that was really politically expensive,’ my question is to who? Our base wanted somebody who was serious, and this is part of what’s going on in the country right now. People are serious about controlling spending. They are serious about repealing Obamacare.”
Last month, Gingrich acknowledged that he was examining a run for president in 2012 but stopped short of opening an exploratory committee.