Gingrich warns Boehner could have 'disaster on his hands'

Newt Gingrich warned Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he risks losing control of his conference without a more coherent strategy. 

"He can't keep thinking the way he's thought the last few months without having a disaster on his hands," Gingrich, a former Speaker, said during an interview on MSNBC.

Boehner has endured a tough few days on Capitol Hill, and saw nine Republicans defect from him during Thursday's vote to elect a new Speaker. Several other Republicans abstained from voting or only voted for Boehner at the last minute.

Conservatives were upset with the "fiscal cliff" bill approved by the House this week with grudging support from Boehner, while New York and New Jersey lawmakers were initially outraged by the Speaker's decision to put off a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill.

Gingrich said Boehner needed to carefully craft a legislative agenda in advance of coming high-profile negotiations on the sequester and debt ceiling.

"They could build a strategy in the House; they could think through the next two years," Gingrich said. "They have total control — that's the way the House operates."

Gingrich pointed to the fight over Sandy relief as an example of Boehner not acting strategically. Under fire from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Rep. Pete King, Boehner later pledged a two-part vote on the Sandy relief bill.

Gingrich suggested that the House should have simply passed portions of the bill that dealt with immediate storm relief, providing political cover for a fight over the legislation's future disaster funding. 

"What Republicans ought to do is pass the Sandy part of the bill, and say, 'We're going to cut $35 billion of pork,' " Gingrich said. " 'Now let's fight with the Senate. The Senate wants to hold up aid to New York and New Jersey over pork?' "

Gingrich also suggested that Boehner and President Obama needed to show more respect for one another in high-profile negotiations, citing even his often-tortured relationship with former President Bill Clinton as an example of how negotiations could proceed more efficiently. 

"You have to have mutual respect, and you have to understand this is not just some grandstanding game," Gingrich said.

Obama phoned Boehner on Friday to congratulate him on his reelection as Speaker, a call that came a day after an aide to the Speaker told The Hill that Boehner would no longer conduct private one-on-one negotiations with Obama.