Representative Michele Bachmann flaunted her staunch opposition to raising the debt ceiling Thursday as she made the case she should be elected the next president of the United States.
Bachmann, a leading contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, said she would not vote for a deficit-reduction plan backed by party leaders in the House because it would sink the country deeper in debt.
Washington must look hard at all of its spending, including on social programs, said Bachmann, who has been more vocal and for longer than fellow Republican presidential contenders on the debt issue.
"I won't raise taxes. I will reduce spending, and I won't vote to raise the debt ceiling," she said in a speech at the National Press Club. "And I have the titanium spine to see it through."
Bachmann, a former tax lawyer and leader of the fiscally conservative Tea Party caucus in the House, said she did not believe Democratic President Barack Obama's warnings the country will default if the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, accusing him of "scare tactics."
"I do not believe for one minute that we will lose the full faith and credit of the United States," she said.
A plan proposed by Republican House Speaker John Boehner was headed for a close vote Thursday. Bachmann is one of about two dozen of the 240 House Republicans who could end up voting against it.
With polls putting her in the top half of the field of contenders in the crowded Republican nomination race, Bachmann could benefit from her tough and early stand on the debt issue. As a member of Congress, she is the only Republican contender who can vote on the issue.
LEADING FISCAL HAWK
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the early frontrunner in the Republican nomination race, has faced scrutiny for his failure to take a strong stance on the issue.
Other candidates who trail Romney and Bachmann in the polls, including former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Utah Governor John Huntsman, have said they support cuts in spending but have not gained attention on the issue.
"I don't think it hurts at this point in the race to just simply say no. It gives her a clear message. It gives her a very clean, straightforward message," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst in Washington.
After Aug. 2, without an increase in the Treasury Department's $14.3 trillion limit on borrowing, the federal government might not have enough money to pay all its bills.
Partisan deadlock between Republicans and Democrats over how best to reduce the U.S. deficit, and over what period, has blocked agreement on how to raise the debt ceiling, raising the specter of a default by the world's largest economy.
Bachmann blasted Obama repeatedly in her half-hour speech for failing to offer a plan to cut spending, and praised Boehner for putting forward a plan, but said the cuts it delivers are not severe enough.
"The day is fast approaching when our entire budget will be consumed not only by servicing the national debt, but by Medicaid, by Medicare and by Social Security," she said, referring to government health insurance and pension programs for the poor and elderly.
Bachmann's hard line could play well with Republican voters who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
"Right now, there's a substantial element of the party that responds to a kind of anger ... and confrontation. Romney isn't particularly good at that. Bachmann is quite good at that. And Pawlenty tries to be angry but can't quite pull it off," Rothenberg said. (Editing by Alistair Bell and Philip Barbara)
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