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Gingrich urges GOP courage on debt issue

Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich on Tuesday urged fellow Republicans to stand firm in their battle with President Barack Obama over raising the federal government's debt ceiling.

In a policy paper provided to The Associated Press, Gingrich invoked the twin government shutdowns during the 1990s when he was House speaker. Republicans, he said, were unfairly denounced by liberals and the news media at the time.

"Ultimately, standing firm led to the first four balanced budgets in our lifetime," Gingrich said. "Proving we were serious changed the attitude of the Clinton White House toward working with us. Being firm led to both a policy and political success," he said.

Gingrich says the choice today doesn't have to be between tax increases and draconian spending cuts. He says reining in waste and abuse in government programs like food stamps coupled with streamlining government management could help save money.

He declined to put a price tag on how much.

Congress is facing an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or the United States could face a first-ever default.

Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked in deficit-reduction talks in Washington. Republicans say they cannot support a plan that boosts taxes. Democrats argue that deep spending cuts would be disastrous to the fragile economic recovery.

Gingrich was widely derided for his leading role in the government shutdowns during his tenure as speaker. But he has embraced the issue on the campaign trail as evidence that he has the courage of his convictions.

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