Former House Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich on Friday advised embattled current Speaker John Boehner to change his way of thinking to successfully run the House. Gingrich added that Boehner and President Barack Obama will need to show each other mutual respect when negotiating.
Gingrich, who was unsuccessful in his presidential bid last year, was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. He was speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, resigning after a tough defeat in the 1998 midterm elections provoked a near-revolt of the House Republicans against him and forced him to resign to avoid embarassment.
Boehner was re-elected speaker on Thursday, but it was a rocky road to victory. More than two weeks ago, his colleagues rebuffed a fiscal cliff package crafted by Boehner because it included a tax increase, which Republicans have been against for the past 20 years. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of Boehner’s speakership, as it showed him as having trouble controlling his caucus.
There was speculation that the caucus’ rejection of Boehner’s proposal was an indication that he would lose the speakership or resign. But Boehner was confident he would keep the post.
Come election time Thursday, Boehner was narrowly re-elected, with 220 votes to 192 for challenger House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A reported 12 of his Republican colleagues voted from someone else, almost as many voted for or a conservative, and a few others abstained.
“The challenge I think Boehner has got -- and Boehner is a survivor -- my hunch is that he is going to spend the next few days thinking very deeply about how to reconnect with the conference,” Gingrich said on the morning program.
The former speaker said the House Republicans need to find a “totally new strategy” and that there is really no leverage on their part when the debt ceiling debate rolls around in late February or early March.
“I think that’s frankly a dead loser, because in the end you know what’s going to happen,” Gingrich said. “The whole national financial system is going to come into Washington by television and say, 'Oh, my God! This is will be a gigantic heart attack. The entire economy of the world will collapse. You guys can’t be responsible.’ And they will cave."
“On the other hand, what he can say is, 'I’m assigning every committee and subcommittee to find waste in government and as we go through appropriation this summer we are not funding,' Gingrich added. “I think he’s going to have to learn to think that way. He can’t keep thinking the way he’s thought the last few months without having a disaster.”
Shortly after House Republicans finally signed off on the Senate’s fiscal cliff agreement, Obama set the tone for upcoming fiscal talks with Congress, saying there will be no more debating on such critical issues.
“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” Obama said. “Let me repeat: We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic ‑- far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.”
Hence, House Republicans need a strategy, Gingrich said, adding “they could think through the next two years in the House, and they have total control as to the way the House operates.”
Gingrich proposed House Republicans and governors meet once per month to compare notes, design hearings and develop reform bills. This, he thinks, will send a message to the president.
“[He should say, 'look, we are going to set an agenda of governing and reform, and if the president would like to work with us, we’d be glad for him to come up occasionally,” Gingrich said.
Using his own rift with former President Bill Clinton as an example, Gingrich suggested he and Clinton eventually came to the realization they needed each other.
“Clinton and I both had a realization,” he said. “And this is what Obama doesn’t believe right now about the Republican House -- Clinton figured out that if I didn’t schedule it he would never sign anything. I figured out if he didn’t sign it, it would be a press conference and not a bill. Now we had a box we had to operate in … We can define boundaries, but until we had gotten to a point when it was a slugging match and until we got to a point where we said, 'OK, power under our Constitution is deliberately divided.' That doesn’t mean you have to posture. It does mean you have to have mutual respect and you have to understand that this isn’t some grandstanding game.”