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Huntsman first GOP candidate to back deal

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman today said he supports the debt deal reached between President Obama and Congress – and chided his Republican opponents for either opposing it or ducking the debate.

Taking a sharper tone than he has in the past, Huntsman said of the last-minute deal to avert a potential default on the state’s debt, “It speaks to zero leadership in Washington out of the White House. It speaks to essentially zero leadership on the part of my opponents.’’

The deal reached yesterday would increase the country’s borrowing ability by $2 trillion, with offsetting spending cuts, and would create a committee to identify additional cuts by November.

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So far, Huntsman is the first presidential candidate to voice support for the current plan – and was the only candidate to support a previous plan put forth by Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has opposed the deal, saying it spends too much and does not cut enough, and Americans “don’t want us to raise the debt ceiling.’’ This morning, after facing criticism for not voicing an opinion on the matter, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also came out against the deal, saying it “opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table.’’ 

Huntsman, speaking to reporters after touring FIRST, a science and technology education center founded by segway inventor Dean Kamen, criticized both approaches. “You have some in favor of crash and burn. I don’t consider that to be a policy,’’ Huntsman said. He later said he was referring to Bachmann and anyone who would let the nation default.

Huntsman also took Romney to task for largely staying out of the debate. “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,’’ Huntsman said. “It’s easy to take a political position later on. It’s tough to take a position early, which is the real world… Leaders step up and take on real world issues.’’

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Huntsman said he believes the deal is missing several important elements, including a balanced budget amendment and entitlement reform. But he said he would support it to ensure that the country does not default, and to take a step toward cutting spending. “You’re not going to get a perfect deal but you’ve got to have the leadership that brings people together so that you can address cuts, so that you can address meeting our financial obligations so the marketplace doesn’t crater,’’ Huntsman said. As the country that produces 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, Huntsman said, “For us not to meet those obligations would have been irresponsible and the markets of the world would have responded very negatively.’’

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