Presidential Hopefuls Lash Out Against Debt Deal

Tuesday, 02 Aug 2011 01:05 PM

By Dan Weil

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Top Republican presidential candidates have almost unanimously voiced opposition to the debt/deficit deal that passed the House Monday and the Senate Tuesday.

Some, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul oppose the deal on principle, objecting to any increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit. Others are concerned about gaining support from the tea party movement.

Tea partyers have roundly dismissed the accord. “There remains, in the eyes of your typical Iowa caucus-goer, a healthy dose of skepticism” about the deal, Matt Strawn, chairman of Iowa’s Republican Party told The New York Times. The candidates’ opposition “does seem to express the sentiment of what I’m hearing from Iowa voters.”

To be sure, House Speaker John Boehner wasn’t so impressed with the consensus view of White House seekers. "Listen, I've got a big job to do here. Those running for president have their own aspirations," he said at a news conference. "My goal is to get this bill passed, signed into law, to solve this debt crisis and help get the American people back to work."

But some of Boehner’s GOP cohorts in Congress rejected the bill too, especially those vulnerable to a primary challenge from a more tea-party-oriented candidate. Some Democrats, wary of election challenges themselves from more liberal candidates, also bucked the deal.

GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana and Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, both of whom are running for Senate, voted no. And so did Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who are considering Senate bids of their own.

Even Boehner’s buddy Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa split from his close ally. Latham stands in a precarious political position, having to face incumbent Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell to save his redistricted seat. Boswell voted no too.

As for the conscientious objectors among presidential hopefuls, Bachmann and Paul have spoken out against lifting the debt ceiling since the issue moved to the front burner weeks ago.

“Someone has to say no. I will,” Bachmann, running second in the polls behind front-runner Mitt Romney, declared in a statement.

“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.’ Everywhere I travel across the country, Americans . . . don’t want us to raise the debt ceiling.

Ron Paul has sounded a constant call against increasing the debt limit too. “While it is good to see serious debate about our debt crisis, I cannot support the reported deal on raising the nation’s debt ceiling. I have never voted to raise the debt ceiling, and I never will,” he said in a statement.

“This deal will reportedly cut spending by only slightly over $900 billion over 10 years. But we will have a $1.6 trillion deficit after this year alone, meaning those meager cuts will do nothing to solve our unsustainable spending problem. In fact, this bill will never balance the budget.”

As for ex-Massachusetts Gov. Romney, he avoided taking a stance on the debt/deficit negotiations until an agreement was reached. It may be that as a moderate, he hoped to support a deal, but by the time one was reached, he realized he better oppose it to avoid alienating grassroots and congressional tea party members.

“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 . . . 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.”

Huntsman continues to position himself as the most moderate GOP candidate by backing the debt/deficit bill. Obama’s former ambassador to China acknowledges flaws in the accord, but sees it as necessary to avoid a default that could have sparked a global financial meltdown.

"You are not going to get a perfect deal,” he said while campaigning in New Hampshire, noting that it avoids "a real focus on entitlement reform."

But, "We're the largest financial services leader in the entire world, and for us not to meet those obligations, I think would have been irresponsible,” he said. “The international marketplace — the markets of the world — they would have responded very negatively."

Bachmann’s position amounts to "crash and burn," Huntsman said. "I don't consider that to be a policy. We live in the real world: you've got to recognize our commitments.”

Huntsman went after Romney too. "To dodge the debate or to wait until the debate is over effectively and to take a side, I don't consider that to be leadership."

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