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Newt Gingrich

Gingrich, Newt (Newton Leroy Gingrich)gĭngˈgrĭch, 1943–, U.S. congressman, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1995–98), b. Harrisburg, Pa., as Newton Leroy McPherson. A history professor, he was first elected as a Republican from Georgia in 1978 and became the leader of those House conservatives who favored using confrontational tactics to challenge the Democrats' long-time control of the House. He helped force Speaker Jim Wright's resignation in 1989 by questioning his financial dealings. That same year Gingrich became House minority whip.

In 1995, after large Republican gains in the 1994 elections (during which, touting a "Contract with America," he championed a balanced-budget amendment, limitations on welfare benefits, and term limits for members of Congress), he became the first Republican Speaker in 40 years. Often didactic, frequently combative, Gingrich led Republicans in attempts to enact conservative legislation, leading to conflicts with President Bill Clinton, most dramatically over the budget in 1995 and 1996.

The Republicans' program was only partially successful, and Clinton's confrontations with Gingrich and the House helped to restore some of the stature the president had lost after the 1994 elections. In the 1996 House elections, Republicans retained the majority and Gingrich his speakership, but he began to lose favor with the conservative bloc, who saw him as backing away from their principles. In early 1997, the House, after an investigation initiated in 1995, reprimanded Gingrich for campaign funding violations. In the 1998 congressional elections, Democrats made substantial gains in the midst of the Clinton impeachment (see Lewinsky scandal), and Gingrich abruptly resigned his speakership and House seat. He subsequently was associated with a Washington think tank and worked as a television-network political commentator, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich's books include To Renew America (1995), Winning the Future (2005), and Pearl Harbor (2007), an historical novel which he cowrote.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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