Dissension Bubbling On Gingrich's Return As Speaker
By Gene Randall/CNN
WASHINGTON (Nov. 11) -- His own re-election and a continued Republican House majority were supposed to dictate Newt Gingrich's future as speaker. The voters gave him both.
Now there appears to be something else that could be in the way: members of his own party. A "Contract with America" colleague says maybe Gingrich should step aside.
Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) says, "I think it's a good idea and I think it would reduce the amount of rhetoric that we would hear on the floor ... and allow us to work more constructively and move forward."
The issue is a widened House ethics committee investigation into whether Gingrich has used tax-deductible charitable contributions for his own political agenda and whether he has been truthful with the committee.
In today's edition of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, moderate Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) says unless the ethics committee releases its independent counsel's report on Gingrich, "I will not vote for Newt on the floor."
The conservative National Review has weighed in as well. Says Washington editor Kate O'Bierne, "I think it would benefit Republicans if Newt Gingrich temporarily stepped aside, turned down the heat, denied Democrats the opportunity, every time Republicans questioned Bill Clinton's ethics, to have the rejoinder be Newt Gingrich's ethics."
O'Bierne recommends making Henry Hyde of Illinois the speaker. She calls him a rock-solid conservative without the rough edges.
But a Hyde spokesman told CNN, "While Mr. Hyde is flattered by suggestions that he run for speaker, he has no plans to do so."
In response to all this, Gingrich aide Lauren Sims says, "We fully expect [Gingrich] ... will be speaker in the 105th Congress. Hopefully, the ethics committee will finish its review before the start of the 105th so this won't be an issue."
On the question of Republicans being hurt by Gingrich as speaker, Exhibit A is the chairman of the ethics committee, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.). Last week she won a surprisingly narrow reelection in Connecticut, possibly tied to a perceived lack of urgency over the Gingrich investigation.
Weighed against that are the words of a well-wired Gingrich defender: Any Republican advice he step down is stunning disloyalty to the party's best strategic visionary.
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