By Molly K. Hooper - 03/31/11 06:34 PM EDT
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich insisted Thursday that Republicans will “fight to get $61 billion” in spending cuts this year.
Gingrich downplayed talk that Democrats and Republicans are speeding toward a deal to cut spending by $33 billion, a little more than half what was included in the House-approved bill.
“There's not an offer on the table — Steny Hoyer is spinning you guys,” Gingrich said, referring to the Democratic House Whip from Maryland.
“Oh, like that's a really big improvement,” responded Gingrich, who spoke to House GOP freshmen on Thursday.
House GOP Appropriations staff are negotiating with their Senate Democratic counterparts, which was widely seen Wednesday as a sign that two sides had reached a deal on a target for the spending cuts. Biden told reporters on Wednesday that there had been progress in the talks and that the two sides were working from the same number, though he said they did not agree on what cuts would be contained within that number.
Gingrich offered no criticism of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), saying he was doing a fine job in negotiating for House Republicans.
But Gingrich, who is preparing a possible 2012 run for the GOP presidential nomination, said Republican leaders should do more to draw attention to the fact that the Senate has yet to approve a spending bill for the year.
“They should focus the country's attention on the Democrats in the Senate, on the 23 Democratic seats that are up next year, and say 'why don't you call the Democratic senators and ask them to go along with $61 billion,' ” Gingrich said.
Noting that the Senate had been unable to move the House-approved bill cutting $61 billion in this year’s spending, Gingrich took a shot at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“I don't think House Republicans should automatically accept the incompetence of Harry Reid as the definition of what they are doing," Gingrich said.