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Newt Gingrich to detail new ‘Contract With America’

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday will outline a set of sweeping changes to government that he says will foster a “national renewal” in the United States and return the country to its founding principles.

Gingrich, who is trying to revive his presidential campaign after a series of stumbles early on, will unveil the 26-page plan at a press event in Iowa. It is modeled on the 1994 “Contract With America” that Gingrich helped write while in Congress.

The new plan, which Gingrich has dubbed a “21st Century Contract With America,” resembles the original in that it puts forward a series of proposals rooted in conservative ideology, according to an advance copy published by the Des Moines Register. It touches on everything from Social Security to immigration to what Gingrich views as disproportionate judicial power.

Arguing that bold action is required immediately upon taking office, the Republican Party’s renowned idea man promises to sign dozens of executive orders immediately after his inauguration that would “immediately transform the way the executive branch works.”

The plan also offers, with some specificity, ideas for remaking the nation’s health care system to be what it describes as more “pro-market” and offer greater options. It suggests ways for simplifying the tax code to reduce the burden on corporations and individuals. It also proposes revamping the Social Security system to allow young Americans to save some of their contributions in private accounts, and requiring the jobless to undergo training in order to receive benefits.

The plan argues that expanding domestic energy production could help kick-start the economy. Gingrich suggests reducing fraud and waste in government by applying private-sector management techniques. He proposes fast-tracking border security infrastructure, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration to hasten the approval process.

The plan is sprinkled with references that will appeal to a generation of conservative activists different from the one that witnessed Gingrich’s two decades in Congress, which ended with his resignation in 1998. It includes a Tenth Amendment Enforcement Act that would start “an orderly transfer of power and responsibility from the federal government back to the states, respectively, or to the people,” as the Constitution requires.

Gingrich also argues that the judicial system has overstepped its role in recent years and vows to “restore the proper role of the judicial branch by using the clearly delineated powers available to the president and Congress to correct, limit, or replace judges who violate the Constitution.”

The release of the plan caps a positive month for Gingrich, who made a series of blunders immediately after announcing his campaign for president. He irritated some Republicans by criticizing elements of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan as “right-wing social engineering,” and drew negative headlines when it emerged that he carried a revolving debt of as much as $500,000 at Tiffany’s, the high-end jeweler.

Gingrich suffered a major blow in June when most of his staff resigned, complaining he did not appear willing to take on the rigors of a presidential campaign.

He has since recovered, registering a series of widely praised debate performances. Though he garnered only 11 percent in a recent CNN poll of likely GOP primary voters, it put him in third place behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

One of Gingrich’s most lauded accomplishments over his career was the original Contract With America. Published a few weeks before the 1994 midterm congressional elections, it is credited with laying out the goals of the Republican Party and helping the GOP gain control of Congress. Many of the proposals ended up being passed by Congress but were either watered down, vetoed by President Bill Clinton or struck down by the courts.

Gingrich has said his new contract is more ambitious than the original and could take a decade to accomplish. A spokesman said Gingrich wrote the contract entirely on his BlackBerry, in bits and pieces between other commitments.

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.

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