WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential primary front-runner Mitt Romney rejected the debt ceiling deal reached over the weekend, saying it will lead to tax increases and cuts in military spending.
"As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced -- not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table," Romney said in a statement.
"President Obama's leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute. While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama's lack of leadership has placed Republican Members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal," Romney said.
Romney's statement came after critics -- including fellow Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman -- assailed the former Massachusetts governor for not weighing in sooner on the debt negotiations. Romney advisers said they were taking a cautious approach to avoid commenting before the contours of a deal became clear.
The assertion that the deal will raise taxes flies in the face of predictions from conservative pundits that it will be nearly impossible for Democrats to wring any tax increases out of the new committee charged with coming up with the second of round deficit reduction measures.
Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China and Utah governor, supported the deal in a statement on Sunday night, saying that it "forces a vote on a much-needed federal balanced budget amendment and provides the only avenue to avoid default."
But Romney's rejection of the deal put him on the same page, in this case at least, with Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who blasted the agreement soon after details emerged Sunday evening. Bachmann mocked President Obama, who said in announcing the deal that "the American people's voice" had helped hasten the agreement.
"Mr. President, I'm not sure what voice you're listening to, but I can assure you that the voice of the American people wasn't the 'voice that compelled Washington to act,'" Bachmann said. "Everywhere I travel across the country, Americans want less spending, lower taxes to create jobs, and they don't want us to raise the debt ceiling."
The agreed upon $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling -- with commensurate cuts -- "spends too much and doesn't cut enough," Bachmann said.
The front page of the White House website Monday morning read "Time For Compromise" and included a picture of Obama announcing the deal.
Other Republican presidential candidates, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have yet to weigh in on the debt deal.
UPDATE: 10:53 a.m. -- Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant issued a statement condemning, but not explicitly rejecting, the deal.
“This deal is nothing to celebrate. Only in Washington would the political class think it's a victory when the government narrowly avoids default, agrees to go further into debt, and does little to reform a spending system that cannot be sustained by our children and grandchildren," Conant said. "While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced.”
UPDATE: 1:44 p.m. - Another critical statement from another GOP presidential candidate. This time it's former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa).
“I commend Speaker Boehner, Leader McConnell, and the conservative congressional leadership for ensuring that immediate cuts and are made and taxes are not raised, as President Obama had advocated. Unfortunately, this deal does not go far enough, and it appears we have lost the best opportunity to advance a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution in nearly a generation. As president, I will be committed to passing a Balanced Budget Amendment and once and for all ensuring that we never again put our nation’s fiscal health in jeopardy.”
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