Cantor reserves judgment on whether Gingrich is 'finished' after Medicare fight

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was guilty of a "tremendous misspeak" in criticizing House Republicans' 2012 budget, House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince The Trail 2016: Dems struggle for unity Overnight Regulation: Supreme Court rejects GOP redistricting challenge MORE (R-Va.) said Tuesday.

Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, harshly criticized the GOP presidential candidate for questioning Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanHouse passes resurrected LGBT measure Ryan seeks to put stamp on GOP in Trump era Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns MORE's (R-Wis.) 2012 budget, particularly its proposed reforms to Medicare.

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"There's no question there was a misspeak here," Cantor said on WLS radio in Chicago. "Just to sit here while all but three House Republicans voted for the Ryan budget, to somehow portray that as a radical step, I believe, is a tremendous misspeak." (Four Republicans voted against the budget.)

Cantor advised Gingrich to explain his comments and "get back on board with what we're trying to do."

"I think that many have said now he's finished," the Virginia Republican later added. "I haven't had a chance to really dissect what in the world he's thinking ... so I probably would reserve judgment on that."

Gingrich said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that Ryan's plan to reform Medicare, which would transform the program into a voucher-based system for Americans under the age of 55, was a step too far.

"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

That prompted Ryan to lob a bomb of his own. "With allies like that, who needs the left?" he quipped.

Gingrich, in turn, spent the better part of Monday walking back his comments the day before. He officially launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last week. He admitted that he might have used strong words toward Ryan's plan, but didn't back off of his belief that the Medicare reforms could be a political stretch.

"My only point for Republicans is be very careful when you’re dealing with an issue on this size, because you need to have the American people understand it," he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday evening. "And by the time you pass it, you need to have a pretty substantial majority that thinks you’re doing the right thing if you want to be given permission to continue to govern."

But that didn't appear to satisfy Cantor, who, along with a number of other congressional Republicans, has come under political siege from Democrats who've loudly criticized the Ryan budget's Medicare reforms.

"If we're going to say something's radical, what's radical is this administration's position," Cantor said.

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