DUBUQUE - Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended his criticism of aspects of the Republican House budget blueprint and renewed his call to repeal federal health care changes on Monday in his first appearance in Iowa as a presidential hopeful.
The Georgia Republican announced his candidacy last week, and began a series of stops in the leadoff nominating caucus state with a speech to the Dubuque Kiwanis Club.
Afterward, he told reporters he generally supported the federal budget proposal put together by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but that it should have included more money for medical research, including for Alzheimer's disease. He also differs with Ryan's approach to Medicare.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Kiwanis Club luncheon, Monday in Dubuque.
"I think it is a remarkable achievement that he was able to put it together," Gingrich said. "But I do think there are aspects of the Medicare proposal that I would approach differently."
"I believe you need a much more fundamental, much more comprehensive approach to fixing Medicare," he added.
Gingrich said it would be too jarring to recipients of the federal health insurance program for older Americans to change the program from a guaranteed benefit to a voucher program, as Ryan proposes.
"I don't think you want to come in and to say to every single American, we're going to come in and change uniformly for all of you in the most fundamental way what happens to you when you are 65," Gingrich said.
He stood by the criticism he leveled at Ryan's provision during NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, but softened the language somewhat.
"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said during the program. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a good way for a free society to operate."
In Dubuque, Gingrich reiterated his call for repealing the federal health care bill signed by President Barack Obama last year. He also touted a series of tax-cut proposals, including abolishing the capital gains and estate taxes, that he said would help enliven the sluggish economy with new investment.
The Dubuque appearance was the first of 17 scheduled for Gingrich in Iowa this week.
Gingrich planned to hold airport news conferences in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines on Monday, and a morning event in Mason City before leaving the state to attend an event in Minnesota. He plans to resume the Iowa travel Thursday, with more than a dozen stops across northern and western Iowa planned through Saturday.