OTR Interviews

Gingrich: GOP has been repeatedly outmaneuvered by the left, must learn to defend religious liberty better

Will the president try to bypass Congress to pass both measures and would this further poison Washington?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Is President Obama acting like the "Bypasser-in-Chief?" The White House is making it crystal clear that President Obama could bypass Congress on everything from the debt ceiling to gun control, for starters Vice President Biden saying today the president may impose gun control with an executive order.

Former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, joins us. Nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, your thoughts...

GINGRICH: And I have to say ... you have the most amazing program tonight that I can remember!

VAN SUSTEREN: It's quite vast and quite varied, I'd say.

GINGRICH: Remarkable.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't want to miss any of it. And nobody wants to miss you, either. So tell me, the president -- the vice president says that the president may use an executive order for -- to impose gun control. Your thoughts.

GINGRICH: Well, the president can try to do almost anything, if he wants to. The question is, will he get away with it? And the two natural stands are, first, somebody will file a lawsuit saying that it's illegal and unconstitutional.

But second, the House Republicans have an opportunity, when the continuing resolution comes up at the end of March, to simply zero out the authority, to say, No money shall be spent. Now, that's so clear under our Constitution. It goes all the way back to the Magna Carta, a copy of which sits in the Capitol dome.

I think that it would be a very interesting fight. I mean, the president, clearly, coming off this election, is going to push everything he can to the edge. He has no interest in negotiating. He wants to push the country as far as he can.

Sooner or later, the House Republicans have to decide that they're going to cheerfully draw lines in the sand, and the Constitution gives them the power. The greatest power the Congress has is the power of the purse, and all they have to say is, You have no money to do this.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we have three co-equal branches of government. That's a given. I'm curious. When can a president use an executive order and when can't he? Is there a line of demarcation?

GINGRICH: Well, an executive order comes from the idea of "to execute the law."

VAN SUSTEREN: So he's...


GINGRICH: So as long as it's -- basically, the Congress passes a law. The president wants to execute that law, so he issues an order saying, We're going to do the following things. But what he can't do is write a new law.

VAN SUSTEREN: So let's take -- let's take first the example of gun control. If he issues an executive order, where he has an idea in his mind about what gun control should be, can he issue an executive order? Is that executing an order, or is that just making up his own?

GINGRICH: Making up his own.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So that's where the line is drawn.

GINGRICH: And at that point, the correct answer by the Congress is to cut off the money and to say, No money shall be spent to do this.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, I don't know how he's going to -- I don't even know if money comes into play with gun control, if he's going to...

GINGRICH: Sure, they can cut off ATF, I mean, whatever -- in other words, a president sitting in the White House can't execute anything. He's going to order somebody to do something. And if the Congress does it and says to those people, whether it's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or the FBI or the border patrol, says, No money can be spent to implement this, period...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right, well, who -- but then -- I mean, now he's engaged in a really ugly battle...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... a very ugly battle.


VAN SUSTEREN: And he's going to say that the Republicans are against law enforcement, they don't want the streets -- they don't want the borders protected because they've just cut off the funding for the border.

GINGRICH: On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Nixon -- Nixon, who did several things that got him in deep trouble, would never have dreamed of the level of power grab that Obama, at least according to Biden and according to others, is trying to do.

The same thing with the National Labor Relations Board, which has now decided, based on an obscure 1935 rule, that they will be involved in non- union companies because they've decided to reinterpret what that law means.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, a power grab in my mind is when you do something you simply don't have the lawful authority to do.

GINGRICH: He doesn't. The president doesn't.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. And so that if there's no law that he would be executing by virtue of an executive order with gun control, instead, he's got to look to Congress to doing it, that would be an unlawful exercise. That would be a power grab.

GINGRICH: Right. And the two ways you deal with it are you either take him to court or the Congress cuts off the money.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does Congress have the sort of wherewithal -- I mean, do they have the drive to do that?

GINGRICH: We don't know yet. I mean, I would think the number one task the House Republicans are faced with as they go off to their planning retreats this week and next week is simple. The real power of the Congress is to not spend money. Are they prepared, starting with the continuing resolution and with the sequester -- are they prepared to say to the president, We're not going to spend the money?

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, but looking at the horizon, at this Congress and this speaker of the House, and -- do you see them united enough to do something like that?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think if they talk it through, they could be that united. I think that, in fact, they're much more unified than people believe and that this would actually be a fairly easy fight because it goes to the heart of the Republican coalition, which is a smaller government, less spending, more balanced budget coalition.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me talk about the debt ceiling because there's some discussion about the president -- the White House suggesting that they don't have to go to Congress to raise the debt ceiling, that they can instead rely on the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

I did little research going back to when this debt ceiling business started, basically in 1917. And what it was, it was to give some more ease to the White House to borrow money. It was not to give the White House a blank open credit card. And so now, though, the president says, Doesn't even matter about this 1917 law, I'm just going to do it because the Constitution says I can?

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, he can try to do that. I think it would be a disaster on a number of fronts. President Obama's strength is when the Congress is saying no and they're involved in some kind of a fight and he's saying, Let's do the right thing.

For the president now to step in and create a proposal that goes back 150 years and to say something no president has ever said, that the president of the United States can unilaterally create debt, I think would be taking a pretty big burden and would isolate him pretty rapidly.

And people around the world would say, Wait a second. What if I buy Obama bonds and then it turns out they're illegal? I mean, he would be entering into the marketplace a level of uncertainty that would be pretty remarkable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think it's sort of just saber rattling and that he has no intention of sort of doing it unilaterally, relying on the Constitution, or do you think that he believes he has authority and he's going to do it?

GINGRICH: No, I -- look, I think this is a very smart team. I'm one of the people[ who has grudgingly decided that Obama and his team actually know what they're doing pretty well. They want a fight over the debt ceiling because it is a dead loser for Republicans. I mean, it gets into the whole good faith and credit of the United States, are you going to really honor your debt, are you willing to be the first people ever to default?

What they don't want to fight over are the continuing resolution and the sequester because that's spending. And they don't want to get into a spending fight because they know that every survey shows that three out of four Americans believe you can cut government spending, and the country does not believe this government is efficient and they don't believe it's as small as it could be.

So the president will do everything he can to keep this fight on the debt ceiling because that's his best fight, and they are terrified of getting mired up -- imagine if the congressional Republicans said, We're going to pass a 30-day continuing resolution in March, and in that 30-day resolution, we're going to kill the 10 dumbest offices in the federal government.

And you, the voters, can go to our new Web site and you can vote for what you think the 10 should be. And then we're going to come back 30 days later at the end of April, and we're going to pass a 30-day continuing resolution and we're going to kill the next 10 dumbest offices, and you get to define what they are.

You would have -- I mean, how does the president go on TV and defend - - out of a $3.7 trillion budget, how does he defend the 10 dumbest offices? Do you know how of dumb the 10 dumbest offices probably are?

VAN SUSTEREN: I could probably imagine it. I live and work here. All right...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... I've read that you've sort of rethought the Defense of Marriage Act, that you have different thought as it reflects on the Republican Party that...


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, explain to me your change.

GINGRICH: Well, I'm very concerned. I believe, as a matter of faith, that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think everything that we know of in terms of the bible and in terms of teaching of the church says marriage is between a man and a woman.

I also believe, as a matter of fact, that nine states have now adopted a law which is different than that. And that poses very real and complex human circumstances. And I think a -- the practical reality is, how are we going to deal with that fact?

And it's not that I want to change my belief. I think that, in fact, it's a big mistake to be confused about this issue. But I think it's also a legal reality that now people are being allowed to create legal status over here, and if they create it in Maryland and they go on a trip and something happens to them on that trip, what happens -- what's their status if they want to go to the local hospital?

And so I think this is a -- this is a very complicated human problem, and Republicans need to take a deep breath and understand -- we need to deal with the human side of this equation and understand that we want to defend marriage in its classic form between a man and woman. I don't accept that there's an alternative. You know, the government can declare that a Ford truck is Air Force One, that doesn't mean it can fly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does this mean that if this were before you today to vote anew, the Defense of Marriage Act, that you would not vote in favor of it, that having, you know, looked at where the -- what -- you know, the evolution of where the country has gone and the feeling of so many Americans and the number of states, would that change your vote?

GINGRICH: No, the Defense of Marriage Act is a fair -- it is a very specific bill that says because one state -- Maryland, to take an example - - happens to vote that marriage extends beyond a man and woman doesn't mean that can be imposed in any other state. I would still defend the right of any individual state...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you basically...


GINGRICH: But I'm saying, as a matter of practical reality, we have to deal -- we conservatives have to deal with the objective fact that nine states have adopted a rule which is now going to make life more complicated. And it's not enough to -- I mean, again, I'm not -- in my personal views, in my beliefs, I don't back up an inch from the core belief of the bible and the core belief of my church that marriage is between a man and a woman. But I am trying to understand how are we going to cope with the complexity that this fact has now entered into our life.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has the Republican Party been tone deaf or unwilling to face that human aspect?

GINGRICH: I think the Republican Party, first of all, is a very complicated institution and it has a lot of different people in it, some of whom, in fact, were much more prepared to accept that than others.

But I think -- I think, on balance, we're going to remain the conservative party. We're going to remain a party that believes in core traditional values. We're going to remain a party which defends religious liberty. And we're going to -- and we've got to learn to do it much, much better.

I watched us get outmaneuvered by the left over and over for the last couple of years in ways that I found frustrating and infuriating. And I don't think -- and I think we have to learn from that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, always nice to see you, sir. Thank you.

GINGRICH: Thank you.