WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Newt Gingrich is a major player in the GOP presidential contest again, and he’s using that platform to position himself as the biggest critic of the congressional debt-reduction “supercommittee.”
Gingrich, who placed second nationally in a poll released Monday by CNN and Opinion Research, said at an event here this morning that the supercommittee is “maniacally stupid” and “an invitation to economic catastrophe.”
The former House speaker said the panel should drop the provision passed by Congress during the summer that would trigger broad cuts if it can’t reach a deal by its Nov. 23 deadline. He said that Americans should be skeptical of any plan produced by the supercommittee and shouldn’t settle for a halfway measure just because of the trigger provision.
“We should reject any effort to blackmail us into accepting a dumb idea on the grounds that in July we accepted an even dumber idea,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich said a threat of massive cuts to defense and domestic program was totally artificial anyway and that the creation of the special debt-reduction panel in the first place is a reflection of Washington’s problems.
“The politicians in Washington in both parties failed to reach an intelligent solution in the summer, kicked the ball down the road, and now are failing to reach an intelligent solution again,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich also discussed his own competing debt-reduction plan.
Included in the plan is expanded energy exploration, giving states the authority to determine welfare eligibility, expanding research to search for cures to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and instituting the “Lean Six Sigma” management program in the federal government.
The former House speaker also tried to position himself as a Washington outsider, noting the D.C. area hasn’t felt the same economic pain as the rest of the country, both in the housing market and in unemployment.
“Their idea of austerity and pain is everybody else,” Gingrich said of lawmakers and the White House.
Gingrich, more than any other candidate in the 2012 presidential race, has been talking about the supercommittee on the campaign trail and at debates.
Given the proximity of his resurgence in the race and the fast-approaching deadline for the committee, the next two weeks will be a good time for Gingrich to re-insert himself into the dialogue on the top issue of the day.
It’s almost an ideal set of circumstances for Gingrich, who has demonstrated a skilled grasp of policy minutiae in speeches and during debates, where he has excelled.