Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is urging Congress to break down the so-called fiscal cliff into "foothills," beginning with a 90 day extension of tax cuts followed by separate bills to deal with tax reform, entitlements, and domestic spending cuts.
"They should offer to break down the cliff into a series of foothills. They should offer to postpone any immediate crisis," Gingrich said of Republican leaders. "But they should be adamant they're not going to accept a one-size package that increases government spending and requires tax increases while achieving nothing on entitlement reform, which is exactly what the Democrats are going to try to push them into."
Gingrich made the comments Thursday night in a lengthy interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. A day earlier, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Semi Valley, Calif., Gingrich had described the fiscal cliff as a "fantasy" and called on Republicans "to get a grip" on debt negotiations with the White House.
Expanding on those remarks, the Georgia Republican and former presidential candidate told Van Susteren that Republicans should ignore politics and stick to their principles. He said the idea that, "Oh, my gosh, we've got to accept something," is just wrong.
"My question is, why? The next election is two years from now," Gingrich said. "It's not next week. It's not the week after. You have time. Take advantage of the time. Do the right things for America. Don't worry about the politics of it.
"I mean, don't worry about the Grover Norquist [anti-tax pledge] politics and don't worry about the Barack Obama politics. Just do what you honestly believe in," he added.
The former speaker, a veteran of negotiations with former President Bill Clinton that produced major welfare reform and a budget deals, said the problem for Republicans now is they "are surrounded by the news media and the Democrats, who are creating an artificial standard and basically saying, 'If you don't sell out on taxes, you're bad people.'"
He called on House Speaker John Boehner to take the chamber into regular session and start passing bills to extend the Bush-era tax cuts passed the Dec. 31 expiration deadline, and at the same time bury the Senate in bills aimed at addressing entitlement reform and other spending issues.
"My advice to House Republicans would be to take a page from [former House Speaker] Tip O'Neill in 1981, go back to regular legislation, start passing bills that actually have a positive effect, send them to the Senate. If the Senate Democrats want to block them, then let the Senate Democrats block them."
"The House ought to pass what it can. The House actually can function," he said.
Gingrich said if Republicans fail to stand up, the country will end up getting "a secret deal made in secret meetings, where nobody will know what's going on."
"And then people will be told, 'Boy, if you don't vote for this, we'll go over the cliff.' Well, I think there are a lot worse things than going over a man-made cliff that I think is entirely artificial," he continued.
"The reality is, the president of the United States has not come forward with any serious spending cuts. What the Democrats are proposing is to take the tax increase now, and then sometime next year, eventually, possibly, we might have some kind of entitlement reform. That's a really bad deal for the American people."
"It's a terrible way to govern the United States," he added.
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