Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came back to the talk-show circuit on Sunday to make it clear that he is "on the same side" as Paul RyanPaul RyanWhy Mariel Cuban criminals deserve amnesty (and Anti-Castro Republicans should support it) GOP agrees on one thing: ObamaCare taxes must go Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE in reshaping Medicare.

A week earlier Gingrich sparked a controversy by referring to Republicans' Medicare overhaul plans as "right-wing social engineering" on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Gingrich began his explanation on CBS's "Face the Nation" by saying that his earlier comments weren't about the specific plan put forth by Ryan, the House Budget chairman.

Gingrich explained that NBC host David Gregory "said, 'should Republicans pass an unpopular plan?' And I made the mistake of accepting his premise. I wasn't referring to Ryan. I was referring to a general principle."

Nevertheless, Gingrich apologized to Ryan earlier in the week.

The former House Speaker added Sunday that he would vote for the Ryan plan but that the debate over Medicare reform is more complicated.

"It's not going to be a yes or no," he said. "And this is what's sad about what's happening. This is the beginning of a profound conversation about a fiscal crisis that is going to crush this country."

Asked why he said the week before that the Ryan plan was "too big a jump," Gingrich said he'd actually make changes to Medicare more quickly.

"The plan can be modified. I would modify it, frankly, to start much earlier than he does, but I'd modify it in a way that moves in the direction he's going and would modify it in a way that people could voluntarily decide," he said.

Addressing another apparent change in position, Gingrich also answered questions about his past support for mandates that compel people to buy health insurance.

"I do not believe in a mandate," he said. When pressed about his past support, he said, "Sure. And the Heritage Foundation has said they were for it at one time. All of us have wrestled with two problems. How do we maximize individual freedom and how do we make sure that people have some responsibility for their debts?"

Gingrich went on to say that mandates are probably illegal.

"I think that in many ways [mandates are] unconstitutional both on religious liberty grounds and on personal liberty grounds," he said. "But we all have been wrestling with this for a long time."

Gingrich said that the spat over his comments from the previous week hadn't hurt him politically.

"Everywhere I went in Iowa people wanted to know how do we defeat ObamaCare? How do we get the budget balanced? How do we create jobs? How do we solve our energy problem?" he said. "They were not paying attention to the noise level in Washington, D.C."