GOP 2012 Contenders Criticize Debt Deal

The Republicans vying for a chance to take on Obama pan the deal to raise the debt ceiling.

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The top GOP 2012 candidates are criticizing the deal to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit, which Congress is now considering. After Washington's political class spent months in bitter partisan fights right down to the Aug. 2 debt ceiling deadline, the White House and many in Congress are breathing a sigh of relief even though, since the deal was a compromise, neither side is completely happy with it. [See a slide show of the GOP 2012 primary candidates.]

But the deal is definitely not popular among the GOP primary candidates. Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul have both promised to vote against raising the debt ceiling, and frontrunner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who stayed out of the fray for most of the debate, released a statement Monday morning in opposition to the deal. "As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced," he said, "not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table."

The other candidates' positions—or lack thereof—during the debate drew criticism Sunday from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who doesn't love the deal but thinks it is a "positive step toward cutting our nation's crippling debt" and Congress should adopt it. He also used the opportunity to take a swipe at President Obama. "While some of my opponents ducked the debate entirely," he said in a statement, likely referring to Romney, "others would have allowed the nation to slide into default and President Obama refused to offer any plan." [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP candidates.]

And former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty's camp criticized the process, saying the last-minute deal shouldn't be celebrated. "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," Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant said, stopping short of condemning the bill. "While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said avoiding default does not solve America's economic crisis, and he expressed concern that the deal would not end up so sweet. "If the ultimate result of this deal is a tax increase and/or debilitative cuts in our investment in national security," he said in a statement Monday, "it will be a destructive failure."

Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson and former Sen. Rick Santorum both disliked House Speaker John Boehner's debt bill, which failed over the weekend, since they felt it didn't go far enough, but neither has made a statement on the new deal yet, nor has Herman Cain, who has said in the past he doesn't think the debt ceiling should be raised.

Potential 2012 candidates former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have also held back on making a statement specifically about the deal, though Perry told Politico he supports the "Cut, Cap, and Balance" approach. And Palin warned freshman congressional Republicans last week via Facebook that they should keep the promises they made to reign in spending and cut the deficit. She ended the note with an ominous post script: "Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries."