Republicans should be willing to shut down the federal government to force deep spending cuts, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday.

Gingrich (R-Ga.) in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said a shutdown would be preferable to letting the nation hit its borrowing limit, as GOP lawmakers look for leverage in the next round of budget negotiations. 

"They have two vehicles," Gingrich said of the debt limit and a spending bill to keep the federal government operating. 

But Gingrich, a former Republican presidential candidate, said while raising the debt ceiling would have disastrous economic consequences, the threat of a shutdown could aid Republicans.

"The debt ceiling is different because it triggers all these international financial problems and triggers the credit of the United States," Gingrich said. "They don't have to say, 'We're going to be wimps.' ”

There are questions about how much leverage Republicans hold in the coming debt-ceiling fight— most everyone agrees the debt ceiling must be raised. But that fight will come at roughly the same time as votes on a continuing resolution to keep the government open and on replacing the automatic cuts known as the sequester.

Gingrich said he brought then-President Clinton around to measures in support of a smaller government by shutting down the federal government in the 1990s. Republicans now could do the same with Obama, he indicated.

“I helped close the government twice. It actually worked,” said Gingrich.