WASHINGTON — House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), breaking his self-imposed silence on the airwaves, predicted Sunday that Congress will send President Clinton an immigration reform package that will permit California to close public school doors to children of illegal immigrants.
On a live television interview show for the first time in five months, Gingrich tossed off predictions and opinions on a wide variety of issues. He also said that:
* Congress will pass a welfare reform bill this year and get a chance to vote on Clinton's proposed increase in the minimum wage as an amendment to that bill.
* The House will pass legislation curtailing federal affirmative action programs.
* Republicans will gain 15 to 25 House seats and four to seven Senate seats in the November elections, and Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) will defeat Clinton.
Gingrich, who had muzzled himself during the Republican primary election season so that his sometimes controversial statements would not distract from the campaign, came back fighting, with acerbic comments on politicians of both parties.
On CBS-TV's "Face the Nation," he was reminded that Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), a critic of his leadership, had recently predicted that there would be no vote on the minimum wage. Gingrich said D'Amato is "just wrong. . . . I don't know why he's wandering around saying these things."
On the immigration issue, Gingrich said Proposition 187, which was approved by California voters two years ago but has been stalled by court challenges, should be put into effect.
Proposition 187 would deny most government benefits, including a public school education, to illegal immigrant families. Supporting the measure, Gingrich said the federal government has no right to demand that California provide benefits it can't afford because the federal government has failed to stop illegal border crossings.
A White House official declined to predict how the Clinton administration would react to legislation denying education benefits to children of illegal immigrants.
"At this point we're not presented with any legislation," the White House official said.
Clinton had condemned Proposition 187 in advance of the 1994 vote in California.
On the minimum wage, which Clinton is seeking to raise from $4.25 an hour to $5.15, Gingrich said there should at least be some kind of exception or offset for small businesses.
"My recommendation is going to be that it be part of the welfare reform bill and the Medicaid reform bill," Gingrich said of the proposal to increase the minimum wage.
In another TV appearance Sunday, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, challenged by the White House to find a way to pay for the proposed repeal of a 4.3-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax hike, floated the idea of cutting education spending.
"If in fact we can get some discipline in the use of our education dollar, I think we can make up the difference," the Texas Republican said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
The White House responded with a statement from Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta that accused Armey of pursuing an "extreme agenda."
Times wire services contributed to this story.