KWAME HOLMAN: Last night in Washington, three days after announcing he would leave Congress, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, mixed with the party faithful, at a meeting of GOPAC, the Republican Political Action Committee he helped bring to prominence. The highlight of the evening occurred just before dinner as Gingrich stood and personally welcomed Louisiana Republican Bob Livingston. It was Livingston who helped force Gingrich's hand by announcing he would run for speaker in the new Congress. Last night, however, the two men greeted each other warmly. Gingrich and Livingston are old friends. In fact, it was Gingrich who invited Livingston to last night's dinner. Gingrich took the podium to sustained applause and chants. Gingrich began with words about his apparent successor as Speaker of the House.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: I thank each and every one of you for being here, and for that kind of remarkable, remarkable welcome. To my good friend and fellow Tulane alum Bob Livingston, I'm glad to have Bob here this night. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: During a 45-minute speech Gingrich touted the achievements of the last two Congresses, which he presided over as Speaker.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: Did House Republicans passed the first balanced budget in 30 years?
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: Did House Republicans pass the first tax cut in 17 years?
KWAME HOLMAN: And Gingrich said such achievements would continue if Republicans rally around the new Speaker.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: Let me say that if every Republican will pull together with Bob Livingston, these big ideas will continue to move us forward. This is another step in the right direction. If all of us work in the right way to the year 2000, I think that this party will be stronger, that we'll achieve more, and that we can build on the foundation of three consecutive elections, the first in seventy years to be won by the House Republican Party. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Gingrich did not give details about his decision to retire from Congress, but he did say he was leaving for the good of the Republican Party.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: I had to make a decisive choice between my own interest and what I believe to be the most important cause of the country and my party. On Friday, it became clear to me that if I were to remain the House, I would be an excuse for divisiveness and fractionalism. The ideas are too big, the issues are too important for any one person to put their office above the good of the country and the party. That is why I announced my retirement on Friday.
KWAME HOLMAN: Gingrich concluded by saying he was proud of the Republican Party and optimistic about its future.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: As I leave public office and rejoin the ranks of active citizenship, the venue changes and the cause lives on. Thank you, good luck, and God bless you.
KWAME HOLMAN: That was as specific as Gingrich got about his plans, but he assured his supporters he'll remain active in public life.