Gingrich attacks deficit supercommittee, supports Obama payroll tax proposal

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told a Washington audience on Tuesday that the new congressional supercommittee to lower U.S. debts should be cast aside in favor of reforms he said could save $3 trillion over the next decade.

Gingrich sought to build on the political momentum he'd gained during last Thursday's presidential debate, when he decried the new, bipartisan panel as too powerful, and argued it should be replaced with an alternative legislative process involving all the regular committees.

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"This is a total disaster, it's a disaster in process, it's a disaster in constitutional means, and it's a disaster in solving our major problems," he said at a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

For Gingrich, the speech condemning the supercommittee represents his best opportunity yet to infuse his flagging bid for the Republican presidential nomination with new energy. His attacks on the panel, established by the debt-ceiling compromise struck in early August, won some of the biggest applause lines of the night at last week's debate.


The former Speaker said he instead favored a series of numerous small-scale reforms to streamline bureaucracy, sell off government assets and increase energy exploration that he said would accomplish savings in excess of what the supercommittee is charged with identifying.

"These grand compromises don't work very well. But 1,000 small, smart things would actually get more done," he said. "My guess is you could be in the $3 trillion range by Christmas, scored over 10 years."

The supercommittee was set up by the debt-ceiling deal and is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit savings by Nov. 23. Its report will get an up-or-down vote in Congress, and if $1.2 trillion in savings is not found, automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs will be triggered in 2013.

An example of one of the reforms Gingrich cited was a bill sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senator criticizes HHS for not investigating exposure of millions of medical images MORE (D-Va.) to expand offshore drilling. Gingrich called on House Republicans to pass the bill immediately upon returning from their summer recess.

In a wide-ranging appearance, Gingrich also backed an idea floated by President Obama to extend a payroll tax break for employees that expires at the end of the year.

“I think it is very hard not to keep the payroll tax cut in this economy,” Gingrich said.

He rejected however two other top White House proposals — extending unemployment insurance (UI) beyond 99 weeks and creating an infrastructure bank. Gingrich said rather than a clean UI extension, UI should be conditioned on job training. On infrastructure, he favors a massive new plan but wants it paid for by revenue from new offshore drilling.

Still, it's unclear whether these kinds of policy speeches in D.C. — Gingrich has sought to position himself as a candidate not of Washington despite making a career for himself inside the Beltway — would win him enough traction to recover from early stumbles in his campaign.

The former Speaker argued Monday night on Fox News, though, that his ideas-based campaign had made enough gains to move into a "rebuilding" stage.