|50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives|
January 4, 1995 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||Tom Foley|
|Succeeded by||Dennis Hastert|
|14th House Minority Whip|
March 20, 1989 – January 3, 1995
|Leader||Robert H. Michel|
|Preceded by||Dick Cheney|
|Succeeded by||David E. Bonior|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th district
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||John James Flynt Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Johnny Isakson|
|Born||Newton Leroy McPherson
June 17, 1943
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jackie Battley (1962–1981)
Marianne Ginther (1981–2000)
Callista Bisek (2000–present)
|Education||Emory University (BA)
Tulane University (MA, PhD)
Newton Leroy Gingrich (//; born Newton Leroy McPherson; June 17, 1943) is an American politician and author from the state of Georgia who served as the 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He represented Georgia's 6th congressional district as a Republican from 1979 until his resignation in 1999. In 2012, Gingrich was a candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination.
A teacher of history and geography at the University of West Georgia in the 1970s, Gingrich won election to the United States House of Representatives in November 1978, the first Republican in the history of Georgia's 6th congressional district to do so. He served as House Minority Whip from 1989–95, and Speaker of the House from 1995–99. A co-author and architect of the "Contract with America", Gingrich was a major leader in the Republican victory in the 1994 congressional election. In 1995, Time named him "Man of the Year" for "his role in ending the four-decades-long Democratic majority in the House".
As House Speaker, Gingrich oversaw passage by the House of welfare reform and a capital gains tax cut in 1997. The poor showing by Republicans in the 1998 Congressional elections, a reprimand from the House for Gingrich's ethics violation, and pressure from Republican colleagues, resulted in Gingrich's resignation from the speakership on November 6, 1998. He resigned altogether from the House on January 3, 1999.
Since leaving the House, Gingrich has remained active in public policy debates and worked as a political consultant. He founded and chaired several policy think tanks, including American Solutions for Winning the Future and the Center for Health Transformation. He has written or co-authored 27 books. In May 2011, he announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. On May 2, 2012, Gingrich ended his presidential campaign and endorsed front runner Mitt Romney, who won the nomination.
- 1 Early life, family, and education
- 2 Early political career
- 3 In Congress
- 4 Speaker of the House
- 5 Post-speakership
- 6 Political positions
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Books and film
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Sources
- 12 External links
Early life, family, and education
Newton Leroy McPherson was born at the Harrisburg Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on June 17, 1943. His mother, Kathleen "Kit" (née Daugherty; 1925–2003), and father, Newton Searles McPherson (1923–1970), married in September 1942, when she was 16 and McPherson was 19. The marriage fell apart within days. He is of German, Scottish, and Irish descent.
In 1946, his mother married career Army officer Robert Gingrich (1925–1996), who adopted Newt. Robert Gingrich was a career Army officer who served tours in Korea and Vietnam. In 1956 the family moved to Europe living for a period in Orléans, France and Stuttgart, Germany.
Gingrich has three younger half-sisters, Candace and Susan Gingrich, and Roberta Brown. Gingrich was raised in Hummelstown (near Harrisburg) and on military bases where his father was stationed. The family's religion was Lutheran. He also has a half-sister and half-brother, Randy McPherson, from his father's side. In 1960 during his junior year in high school, the family moved to Georgia at Fort Benning.
In 1961, Gingrich graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia. He had been interested in politics since his teen years while living with his family in Orléans, France. He visited the site of the Battle of Verdun and learned about the sacrifices made there and the importance of political leadership.
Gingrich received a B.A. degree in history from Emory University in Atlanta in 1965. He went on to graduate study at Tulane University, earning an M.A. (1968) and a Ph.D. in European history (1971). He spent six months in Brussels in 1969–70 working on his dissertation, Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945–1960.
Gingrich received deferments from the military during the years of the Vietnam War for being a student and a father. In 1985, he stated, "Given everything I believe in, a large part of me thinks I should have gone over."
In 1970, Gingrich joined the history department at West Georgia College as an assistant professor. In 1974 he moved to the geography department and was instrumental in establishing an interdisciplinary environmental studies program. He left the college in 1978 when he was elected to Congress.
Early political career
In 1974, Gingrich made his first bid for political office as the Republican candidate in Georgia's 6th congressional district, which stretched from the southern Atlanta suburbs to the Alabama state line. He lost to 20-year incumbent Democrat Jack Flynt by 2,770 votes. Gingrich ran up huge margins in the suburban areas of the district, but was unable to overcome Flynt's lead in the more rural areas. Gingrich's relative success surprised political analysts. Flynt had never faced a serious challenger; Gingrich was the second Republican to ever run against him. He did well against Flynt although 1974 was a disastrous year for Republican candidates nationally due to fallout from the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration.
Gingrich sought a rematch against Flynt in 1976. While the Republicans did slightly better in the 1976 House elections than in 1974 nationally, the Democratic candidate in the 1976 presidential election was former Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter. Carter won more than two-thirds of the vote in his native Georgia. Gingrich lost his race by 5,100 votes.
As Gingrich primed for another run in the 1978 elections, Flynt decided to retire. Gingrich defeated Democratic State Senator Virginia Shapard by 7,500 votes. Gingrich was re-elected six times from this district. He faced a close general election race once—in the House elections of 1990—when he won by 978 votes in a race against Democrat David Worley. Although the district was trending Republican at the national level, conservative Democrats continued to hold most local offices, as well as most of the area's seats in the General Assembly, well into the 1980s.
In 1981, Gingrich co-founded the Military Reform Caucus (MRC) and the Congressional Aviation and Space Caucus. During the 1983 congressional page sex scandal, Gingrich was among those calling for the expulsion of representatives Dan Crane and Gerry Studds. Gingrich supported a proposal to ban loans from the International Monetary Fund to Communist countries and he endorsed a bill to make Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.
In 1983, Gingrich founded the Conservative Opportunity Society (COS), a group that included young conservative House Republicans. Early COS members included Robert Smith Walker, Judd Gregg, Dan Coats and Connie Mack III. The group gradually expanded to include several dozen representatives, who met each week to exchange and develop ideas.
Gingrich's analysis of polls and public opinion identified the group's initial focus. Ronald Reagan adopted the "opportunity society" ideas for his 1984 re-election campaign, supporting the group's conservative goals on economic growth, education, crime, and social issues. He had not emphasized these during his first term. Reagan also referred to an "opportunity" society in the first State of the Union address of his second term.
In May 1988, Gingrich (along with 77 other House members and Common Cause) brought ethics charges against Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, who was alleged to have used a book deal to circumvent campaign-finance laws and House ethics rules. During the investigation, it was reported that Gingrich had his own unusual book deal, for Window of Opportunity, in which publicity expenses were covered by a limited partnership. It raised $105,000 from Republican political supporters to promote sales of Gingrich's book. Gingrich's success in forcing Wright's resignation contributed to his rising influence in the Republican caucus.
In March 1989, Gingrich became House Minority Whip in a close election against Edward Rell Madigan. This was Gingrich's first formal position of power within the Republican party. He said his intention to "build a much more aggressive, activist party". Early in his role as Whip, in May 1989, Gingrich was involved in talks about the appointment of a Panamanian administrator of the Panama Canal, which was scheduled to occur in 1989 subject to U.S. government approval. Gingrich was outspoken in his opposition to giving control over the canal to an administrator appointed by the dictatorship in Panama.
Gingrich and others in the House, including the newly minted Gang of Seven, railed against what they saw as ethical lapses during the nearly 40 years of Democratic control for almost 40 years. The House banking scandal and Congressional Post Office scandal were emblems of the exposed corruption. Gingrich himself was among members of the House who had written NSF checks on the House bank. He had overdrafts on twenty-two checks, including a $9,463 check to the Internal Revenue Service in 1990.
In 1990, after consulting focus groups with the help of pollster Frank Luntz, GOPAC distributed a memo with a cover letter signed by Gingrich titled "Language, a Key Mechanism of Control", that encouraged Republicans to "speak like Newt." It contained lists of "contrasting words"—words with negative connotations such as "radical", "sick," and "traitors"—and "optimistic positive governing words" such as "opportunity", "courage", and "principled", that Gingrich recommended for use in describing Democrats and Republicans, respectively.
Due to population increases recorded in the 1990 United States Census, Georgia picked up an additional seat for the 1992 U.S. House elections. However, the Democratic-controlled Georgia General Assembly, under the leadership of fiercely partisan Speaker of the House Tom Murphy, specifically targeted Gingrich, eliminating the district which he Gingrich represented. Gerrymandering split Gingrich's territory among three neighboring districts. Much of the southern portion of Gingrich's district, including his home in Carrollton, was drawn into the Columbus-based 3rd District, represented by five-term Democrat Richard Ray. Gingrich remarked that "The Speaker, by raising money and gerrymandering, has sincerely dedicated a part of his career to wiping me out."
At the same time, the Assembly created a new, heavily Republican 6th District in Fulton and Cobb counties in the wealthy northern suburbs of Atlanta—-an area that Gingrich had never represented. Gingrich sold his home in Carrollton and moved to Marietta in the new 6th. His primary opponent, State Representative Herman Clark, made an issue out of Gingrich's 22 overdraft checks in the House Bank Scandal, and also criticized Gingrich for moving into the district. After a recount, Gingrich prevailed by 980 votes, with a 51% to 49% result. His winning the primary all but assured him of election in November. He was re-elected three times from this district against nominal Democratic opposition.
"Republican Revolution" of 1994
In the 1994 campaign season, in an effort to offer an alternative to Democratic policies and to unite distant wings of the Republican Party, Gingrich and several other Republicans came up with a Contract with America, which laid out ten policies that Republicans promised to bring to a vote on the House floor during the first hundred days of the new Congress, if they won the election. The contract was signed by Gingrich and other Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. The contract ranged from issues such as welfare reform, term limits, tougher crime laws, and a balanced budget law, to more specialized legislation such as restrictions on American military participation in United Nations missions.
In the November 1994 elections, Republicans gained 54 seats and took control of the House for the first time since 1954. Long-time House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois had not run for re-election, giving Gingrich, the highest-ranking Republican returning to Congress, the inside track at becoming Speaker. The midterm election that turned congressional power over to Republicans "changed the center of gravity" in the nation's capital. Time magazine named Gingrich its 1995 "Man of the Year" for his role in the election.
Speaker of the House
The House fulfilled Gingrich's promise to bring all ten of the Contract's issues to a vote within the first 100 days of the session. President Clinton called it the "Contract on America".
Legislation proposed by the 104th United States Congress included term limits for Congressional Representatives, tax cuts, welfare reform, and a balanced budget amendment, as well as independent auditing of the finances of the House of Representatives and elimination of non-essential services such as the House barbershop and shoe-shine concessions. Following Gingrich's first two years as House Speaker, the Republican majority was re-elected in the 1996 election, the first time Republicans had done so in 68 years, and the first time simultaneously with a Democratic president winning re-election.
A central pledge of President Bill Clinton's campaign was to reform the welfare system, adding changes such as work requirements for recipients. However, by 1994, the Clinton Administration appeared to be more concerned with pursuing a universal health care program. Gingrich accused Clinton of stalling on welfare, and proclaimed that Congress could pass a welfare reform bill in as little as 90 days. He insisted that the Republican Party would continue to apply political pressure to the President to approve their welfare legislation.
In 1996, after constructing two welfare reform bills that Clinton vetoed, Gingrich and his supporters pushed for passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which was intended to reconstruct the welfare system. The act gave state governments more autonomy over welfare delivery, while also reducing the federal government's responsibilities. It instituted the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which placed time limits on welfare assistance and replaced the longstanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. Other changes to the welfare system included stricter conditions for food stamp eligibility, reductions in immigrant welfare assistance, and work requirements for recipients. The bill was signed into law by President Clinton on August 22, 1996.
In his 1998 book Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Gingrich encouraged volunteerism and spiritual renewal, placing more importance on families, creating tax incentives and reducing regulations for businesses in poor neighborhoods, and increasing property ownership by low-income families. He also praised Habitat for Humanity for sparking the movement to improve people's lives by helping them build their own homes.
Balancing the federal budget
Although congressional Republicans had opposed Clinton's Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, a key aspect of the 1994 Contract with America was the promise of a balanced federal budget. After the end of the government shutdown, Gingrich and other Republican leaders acknowledged that Congress would not be able to draft a balanced budget in 1996. Instead, they opted to approve some small reductions that were already approved by the White House and to wait until the next election season.
By May 1997, Republican congressional leaders reached a compromise with Democrats and President Clinton on the federal budget. The agreement called for a federal spending plan designed to reduce the federal deficit and achieve a balanced budget by 2002. The plan included a total of $152 billion in bipartisan tax cuts over five years. Other major parts of the spending plan called for $115 billion to be saved through a restructuring of Medicare, $24 billion set aside to extend health insurance to children of the working poor, tax credits for college tuition, and a $2 billion welfare-to-work jobs initiative.
President Clinton signed the budget legislation in August 1997. At the signing, Gingrich gave credit to ordinary Americans stating, "It was their political will that brought the two parties together."
In early 1998, with the economy performing better than expected, increased tax revenues helped reduce the federal budget deficit to below $25 billion. Clinton submitted a balanced budget for 1999, three years ahead of schedule originally proposed, making it the first time the federal budget had been balanced since 1969.
Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
In 1997, President Clinton signed into effect the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, which included the largest capital gains tax cut in U.S. history. Under the act, the profits on the sale of a personal residence ($500,000 for married couples, $250,000 for singles) were exempted if lived in for at least 2 years over the last 5. (This had previously been limited to a $125,000 once-in-a-lifetime exemption for those over the age of 55.) There were also reductions in a number of other taxes on investment gains.
Additionally, the act raised the value of inherited estates and gifts that could be sheltered from taxation. Gingrich has been credited with creating the agenda for the reduction in capital gains tax, especially in the "Contract with America", which set out to balance the budget and implement decreases in estate and capital gains tax. Some Republicans felt that the compromise reached with Clinton on the budget and tax act was inadequate, however Gingrich has stated that the tax cuts were a significant accomplishment for the Republican Congress in the face of opposition from the Clinton administration. Gingrich along with Bob Dole had earlier set-up the Kemp Commission, headed by former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, a tax reform commission that made several recommendations including that dividends, interest, and capital gains should be untaxed.
Among the first pieces of legislation passed by the new Congress under Gingrich was the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, which subjected members of Congress to the same laws that apply to businesses and their employees, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As a provision of the Contract with America, the law was symbolic of the new Republican majority's goal to remove some of the entitlements enjoyed by Congress. The bill received near universal acceptance from the House and Senate and was signed into law on January 23, 1995.
Gingrich and the incoming Republican majority's promise to slow the rate of government spending conflicted with the president's agenda for Medicare, education, the environment and public health, leading to two temporary shutdowns of the federal government totaling 28 days.
Clinton said Republican amendments would strip the U.S. Treasury of its ability to dip into federal trust funds to avoid a borrowing crisis. Republican amendments would have limited appeals by death-row inmates, made it harder to issue health, safety and environmental regulations, and would have committed the president to a seven-year balanced budget. Clinton vetoed a second bill allowing the government to keep operating beyond the time when most spending authority expires.
A GOP amendment opposed by Clinton would not only have increased Medicare Part B premiums, but it would also cancel a scheduled reduction. The Republicans held out for an increase in Medicare part B premiums in January 1996 to $53.50 a month. Clinton favored the then current law, which was to let the premium that seniors pay drop to $42.50.
The government closed most non-essential offices during the shutdown, which was the longest in U.S. history. The shutdown ended when Clinton agreed to submit a CBO-approved balanced budget plan.
During the crisis, Gingrich's public image suffered from the perception that the Republicans' hardline budget stance was owed partly to an alleged snub of Gingrich by Clinton during a flight on Air Force One to and from Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel. That perception developed after the trip when Gingrich, while being questioned by Lars-Erik Nelson at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said that he was dissatisfied that Clinton had not invited him to discuss the budget during the flight. He complained that he and Dole were instructed to use the plane's rear exit to deplane, saying the snub was "part of why you ended up with us sending down a tougher continuing resolution". In response to Gingrich's complaint that they were "forced to use the rear door," NBC news released their videotape footage showing both Gingrich and Dole disembarking at Tel Aviv just behind Clinton via the front stairway.
Gingrich was widely lampooned for implying that the government shutdown was a result of his personal grievances, including a widely shared editorial cartoon depicting him as a baby throwing a tantrum. Democratic leaders, including Chuck Schumer, took the opportunity to attack Gingrich's motives for the budget standoff. In 1998, Gingrich said that these comments were his "single most avoidable mistake" as Speaker.
Discussing the impact of the government shutdown on the Republican Party, Gingrich later commented that, "Everybody in Washington thinks that was a big mistake. They're exactly wrong. There had been no reelected Republican majority since 1928. Part of the reason we got reelected ... is our base thought we were serious. And they thought we were serious because when it came to a show-down, we didn't flinch." In a 2011 op-ed in The Washington Post, Gingrich said that the government shutdown led to the balanced-budget deal in 1997 and the first four consecutive balanced budgets since the 1920s, as well as the first re-election of a Republican majority since 1928.
Ethics charges and reprimand
Eighty-four ethics charges were filed by Democrats against Gingrich during his term as Speaker. All were eventually dropped except for one: claiming tax-exempt status for a college course run for political purposes. On January 21, 1997, the House officially reprimanded Gingrich (in a vote of 395 in favor, 28 opposed) and "ordered [him] to reimburse the House for some of the costs of the investigation in the amount of $300,000". It was the first time a Speaker was disciplined for an ethics violation.
Additionally, the House Ethics Committee concluded that inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented "intentional or ... reckless" disregard of House rules. The Ethics Committee's Special Counsel James M. Cole concluded that Gingrich had violated federal tax law and had lied to the ethics panel in an effort to force the committee to dismiss the complaint against him. The full committee panel did not agree whether tax law had been violated and left that issue up to the IRS. In 1999, the IRS cleared the organizations connected with the "Renewing American Civilization" courses under investigation for possible tax violations.
Regarding the situation, Gingrich said in January 1997, "I did not manage the effort intensely enough to thoroughly direct or review information being submitted to the committee on my behalf. In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee, but I did not intend to mislead the committee ... I brought down on the people's house a controversy which could weaken the faith people have in their government."
In the summer of 1997, several House Republicans attempted to replace him as Speaker, claiming Gingrich's public image was a liability. The attempted "coup" began July 9 with a meeting of Republican conference chairman John Boehner of Ohio and Republican leadership chairman Bill Paxon of New York. According to their plan, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Boehner and Paxon were to present Gingrich with an ultimatum: resign, or be voted out. However, Armey balked at the proposal to make Paxon the new Speaker, and told his chief of staff to warn Gingrich. On July 11, Gingrich met with senior Republican leadership to assess the situation. He explained that under no circumstance would he step down. If he was voted out, there would be a new election for Speaker. This would allow for the possibility that Democrats, along with dissenting Republicans, would vote in Democrat Dick Gephardt as Speaker. On July 16, Paxon offered to resign his post, feeling that he had not handled the situation correctly, as the only member of the leadership who had been appointed to his position—by Gingrich—instead of elected.
In 1998, Republicans lost five seats in the House—the worst midterm performance in 64 years by a party not holding the presidency. Gingrich, who won his reelection, was held largely responsible for Republican losses in the House. His private polls had given his fellow Republican Congress the impression that pushing the Lewinsky scandal would damage Clinton's popularity and result in the party winning a net total of six to thirty seats in the US House of Representatives in this election. The day after the election, a Republican caucus ready to rebel against him prompted his resignation of the speakership. He also announced his intended and eventual full departure from the House in January 1999. When relinquishing the speakership, Gingrich said he was "not willing to preside over people who are cannibals," and claimed that leaving the House would keep him from overshadowing his successor.
Gingrich has since remained involved in national politics and public policy debate, especially on issues regarding healthcare, national security, and the role of religion in American public life.
In 2003, he founded the Center for Health Transformation. Gingrich supported the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, creating the Medicare Part D federal prescription drugs benefit program. Some conservatives have criticized him for favoring the plan, due to its cost. However, Gingrich has remained a supporter, stating in a 2011 interview that it was a necessary modernization of Medicare, which was created before pharmaceutical drugs became standard in medical care. He has said that the increase in cost from medication must be seen as preventive, leading to reduced need for medical procedures. In a May 15, 2011, interview on Meet the Press, Gingrich repeated his long-held belief that "all of us have a responsibility to pay—help pay for health care", and suggested this could be implemented by either a mandate to obtain health insurance or a requirement to post a bond ensuring coverage. In the same interview Gingrich said "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate." This comment caused backlash within the Republican Party.
In 2005, with Hillary Clinton, Gingrich announced the proposed 21st Century Health Information Act, a bill which aimed to replace paperwork with confidential, electronic health information networks. Gingrich also co-chaired an independent congressional study group made up of health policy experts formed in 2007 to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of action taken within the U.S. to fight Alzheimer's disease.
Gingrich has served on several commissions, including the Hart-Rudman Commission, formally known as the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st century, which examined national security issues affecting the armed forces, law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In 2005 he became the co-chair of a task force for UN reform, which aimed to produce a plan for the U.S. to help strengthen the UN. For over two decades, Gingrich has taught at the United States Air Force's Air University, where he is the longest-serving teacher of the Joint Flag Officer Warfighting Course. In addition, he is an honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University and teaches officers from all of the defense services. Gingrich informally advised Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld on strategic issues, on issues including the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and encouraging the Pentagon to not "yield" foreign policy influence to the State Department and National Security Council. Gingrich is also a guiding coalition member of the Project on National Security Reform.
Gingrich founded and served as the chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 group established by Gingrich in 2007. The group was a "fundraising juggernaut" that raised $52 million from major donors, such as Sheldon Adelson and the coal company Peabody Energy. The group promoted deregulation and increased offshore oil drilling and other fossil-fuel extraction and opposed the Employee Free Choice Act; Politico reported, "The operation, which includes a pollster and fundraisers, promotes Gingrich’s books, sends out direct mail, airs ads touting his causes and funds his travel across the country." American Solutions closed in 2011 after he left the organization.
Other organizations and companies founded or chaired by Gingrich include the creative production company Gingrich Productions, and religious educational organization Renewing American Leadership.
He is a fellow at conservative think tanks the American Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution. He sometimes serves as a commentator, guest or panel member on cable news shows, such as the Fox News Channel. He is listed as a contributor by Fox News Channel, and frequently appears as a guest on various segments; he has also hosted occasional specials for the Fox News Channel. Gingrich is a proponent of the Lean Six Sigma management techniques for waste reduction, and has signed the "Strong America Now" pledge committing to promoting the methods to reduce government spending.
After leaving Congress in 1999, Gingrich started a nu