Gingrich: Deficit Super Committee ‘As Dumb an Idea as Washington Has Come Up With’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 12, 2011 | 1:47 PM EDT

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) during a commercial break at the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Aug. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool)

( - In the Republican presidential primary debate in Ames, Iowa, last night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) ridiculed the creation of a special congressional committee that has been charged with coming up with a plan to cut $1.5 trillion from anticipated future federal spending, calling the special committee “as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime.”

The committee was authorized by the law—negotiated between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders of both parties—that increased the debt limit of the federal government by up to $2.4 trillion.

It consists of 3 House Democrats, 3 House Republicans, 3 Senate Democrats and 3 Senate Republicans—all of whom were handpicked by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.

All 6 Democrats on the committee received a grade of "F" from the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union in 2010 for their voting records on issues that affect taxes and spending.

If the full Congress fails to approve--and President Obama fails to sign--legislation prepared by this special committee to cut planned federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, the debt-limit-increase legislation calls for automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. Under the debt-limit-increase law, however, half of these automatic cuts must from defense.

Gingrich mocked the very idea of the committee—saying that rather than develop spending cuts in secret in this committee, Congress should follow its normal and transparent process in preparing appropriations bills that cut spending.

“Look, I think this super committee is about as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime,” said Gingrich.

“I used to run the House of Representatives, I have some general notion of these things,” he said. “The idea that 523 senators and congressmen are going to sit around for four months while 12 brilliant people, mostly picked for political reasons, are going to sit in some room and brilliantly come up with a trillion dollars or force us to choose between gutting our military and accepting a tax increase is irrational.

“They're going to walk in just before Thanksgiving and say: All right, we can shoot you in the head or cut off your right leg, which do you prefer?” said Gingrich.

“What they ought to do is scrap the committee right now, recognize it's a dumb idea, go back to regular legislative business, assign every subcommittee the task of finding savings, do it out in the open through regular legislative order and get rid of this secret phony business,” said Gingrich.

The legislation to increase the debt limit by up to $2.4 trillion and create the so-called “Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction” was approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Aug. 1 by a vote of 269-161 vote. Sixty-six House Republicans voted against the legislation and 95 House Democrats voted for it.

House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) both voted for the legislation. Representatives Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R.-Texas), both of whom are running for president, voted against the legislation.