Romney: ‘I personally cannot support this deal’

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney this morning said he opposed the 11th-hour debt deal negotiated by President Obama and top congressional leaders and meant to avert a potential default on the government’s financial obligations.

“I personally cannot support this deal,’’ the former Massachusetts governor said this morning in a statement. He has largely stayed off to the sidelines during a high-stakes debate that has engulfed Washington and the country, and his comments are the most definitive he’s offered.

Romney criticized the terms of the deal because it would establish a 12-member congressional committee that would have the authority to look at a variety of ways to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit — including a tax overhaul.

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“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. “President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute.’’

The statement comes on a day when congressional passage of the deal is uncertain. If the legislation is not approved by tomorrow — allowing the country to borrow additional money — US Treasury officials have said it would be unable to pay all its bills starting Wednesday.

“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 comments put him on the same page as Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican who is running for president and released a statement saying, “Someone has to say no. I will.’’

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman released a statement last night calling the deal “a positive step toward cutting our nation’s crippling debt’’ and encouraging Congress to approve it.

He also subtly tweaked Romney for not weighing in on a major issue of the day.

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“While some of my opponents ducked the debate entirely, others would have allowed the nation to slide into default and President Obama refused to offer any plan, I have been proud to stand with congressional Republicans working for these needed and historic cuts,’’ Huntsman said. “A debt crisis like this is a time for leadership, not a time for waiting to see which way the political winds blow.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s spokesman criticized the terms of the deal this morning, but did not say whether he wanted Congress to vote for or against it.

“This deal is nothing to celebrate,’’ said the spokesman, Alex Conant. “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. While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced.’’

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