Pawlenty urges lawmakers to reject 2011 budget deal

Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday urged lawmakers to reject the budget deal designed to avert a government shutdown. 

Pawlenty, who presided over a state shutdown as governor of Minnesota, said that the bipartisan deal that would cut $39.9 billion in spending from this year's budget does not make enough reductions.

ADVERTISEMENT
"President Obama's lack of seriousness on deficit reduction is crystal clear when you look at the budget deal he insisted on to avoid a government shutdown," he said in a statement. "It's no surprise that President Obama and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] forced this budget, but it should be rejected. America deserves better."

Pawlenty is one of the few candidates in the field of GOP candidates to outright reject the spending agreement brokered last week by Obama, Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). 

"The more we learn about the budget deal the worse it looks. When you consider that the federal deficit in February alone was over $222 billion, to have actual cuts less than the $38 billion originally advertised is just not serious," he said.

“I think Tim Pawlenty and others are entitled to their opinion,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told The Hill. “This is a deal the Speaker struck. It was the best deal he could strike given the fact he was dealing with the White House and the Senate.”

The House is expected to take up the budget deal on Thursday, one day before the government is set to run out of funds. Conservative and liberal lawmakers in both chambers have said they will vote against the deal, but House GOP leaders have predicted it will pass. 

Pawlenty's position puts him at odds with Boehner, who became Speaker earlier this year after the GOP rode a wave of Tea Party support into the majority in the 2010 elections.

His stance also aligns him with conservative Tea Party activists, many of whom have expressed reservations about the deal. 

Pawlenty also alluded to reports that the legislation actually cuts less than the stated amount of discretionary spending.

"The fact that billions of dollars advertised as cuts were not scheduled to be spent in any case makes this budget wholly unacceptable," he said.

During an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, Boehner conceded that there is a difference between the mandatory and discretionary cuts in the deal, but that overall, it is a good first step. 

"I'm telling you that when we cut spending, these are real cuts in spending," he said. "It's a damn good first step."

Russell Berman contributed to this post.

-- This post was updated at 5:20 p.m.