Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says it would be better for Republicans to take that dive off the so-called fiscal cliff on Dec. 31, rather than "cave in" to President Barack Obama on tax increases.
The Georgia Republican also suggested that GOP leaders in Congress "should be prepared" if necessary to force a government shutdown to get the deep spending cuts they want.
"I think it's a huge mistake for House Republicans to cave in and try to find some kind of desperate solution that doesn't work," Gingrich told Fox News' Sean Hannity Wednesday night.
"There's no evidence, none, that the president will cut spending. If the president's not going to cut spending, our choice is simple. You go over a smaller cliff this year or a bigger cliff two or three years from now."
"There's no question in my mind," he continued, "that going over the fiscal cliff, which is frankly not nearly as big a deal as the Washington media says it is, and confronting head on that we are not going to continue this pattern of deficit spending, is far better for them than to raise taxes, slow the economy, and grow government."
Gingrich cautioned Republicans against getting "sucked into" playing politics with the budget negotiations and worrying about the possibility of being blamed if they end in failure.
"I think that's a very dangerous game to play," he said, adding, "That's not your job."
Instead, he called on House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders in control of the House to get back to the business of passing legislation that keeps the current tax rates where they are now.
"If they passed a bill that extended the tax cuts for everybody and every single one of [the Republican House members] went on local TV and local radio, and said, 'We have now passed a middle class tax extension, all the president has to do is sign it,' you would have a totally different debate going on the next day," Gingrich said.
The former speaker tried that approach in the 1990s during budget negotiations with then President Bill Clinton. The standoff led to a series of government shutdowns, for which Republicans were generally blamed by voters.
Recalling those years, Gingrich said it wasn't easy but in the end a deal was reached that both sides could live with.
"I'm not suggesting that we have to go to that level [of government shutdowns], but they should be prepared to," the former speaker said.
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