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GOP could lose control of Congress, Gingrich says
Boston Globe
Steven Thomma
April 2, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A dozen years after he engineered his party's takeover of Congress, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is warning that his fellow Republicans could be swept out of power themselves.

"They are seen by the country as being in charge of a government that can't function," he said in an interview last week. "We could lose control this fall."

Gingrich cited a series of blunders under Republican rule, from failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to mismanagement of the war in Iraq.

He said the immigration bill passed by his former colleagues in the House of Representatives is unrealistic and too harsh toward undocumented immigrants, called congressional efforts to regulate lobbying "much too weak," and said the government has squandered billions of dollars in Iraq.

Long known as a provocateur, Gingrich said he was leveling his pointed criticisms to try to shake up his party. "I'm trying to get the government and my party to change this year," he said.

Gingrich said Republicans might retain control of Congress this fall if they and President Bush produce a burst of accomplishments and popular overhauls in the next few months.

Gingrich said Republicans have grown too comfortable in power and lost the grass-roots, outside-the-Beltway, attitude that once fed their hunger to downsize the government.

"We reached our peak in August of '97 when we passed the balanced budget" law, he said. "That was the moment when we had in fact changed the city as much as we were going to do in that way."

After that, he said, the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994 cooled for two reasons.

First, he said, the next generation of Republicans in Congress didn't understand the broad goals. "People reverted to being normal incumbents," he said. Then, the party never generated a "second wave" of grass-roots pressure for change in Washington.

The result, he said, is a government that doesn't work well.

"The Republicans in large part are right on policy and wrong on implementation. If you're wrong on implementation long enough when you're in charge, they fire you," he said.

Gingrich briefly dominated Washington after he led his party behind an agenda to take control of the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years.

Under fire for unexpected GOP losses in 1998 midterm elections, Gingrich stepped down as speaker and retired from Congress.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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