Romney facing greater scrutiny over silence on Boehner plan

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) finds himself facing greater scrutiny for not having staked out a position on House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling plan, hours ahead of a planned vote on that proposal in the House.

Romney has assiduously avoided commenting directly on the proposal put forth by the Speaker, all while an increasing number of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination have made their positions clear.

The campaign's putative front-runner has said he "applauds" Boehner for his efforts to craft a plan to rein in spending. But that doesn't mean he supports it, per se.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) have all said they oppose the Boehner plan; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) is the only candidate to endorse the proposal.

Romney's refusal to take a position on the plan hasn't escaped notice, either. Pawlenty's campaign has put the pressure on Romney to say where he stands on the Boehner plan, and Democrats have gladly circulated press reports taking note of Romney's relative silence on the issue.

For what it's worth, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign has long said it didn't expect to telegraph its position on the day-to-day developments in the debt-ceiling fight. When he's been asked, Romney has replied that he supports the "cut, cap and balance" approach — a position embraced by other primary foes who have opposed the Boehner plan.

Boehner's plan, which calls for immediate spending cuts and an extension of the debt limit, with a second possible extension next year, tied to further cuts recommended by a congressional panel, is set for a pivotal vote in the House late this afternoon.

Conservative activists had panned the proposal as insufficient, and the most stridently conservative voices have maintained that "cut, cap and balance" is the only appropriate approach.

But Boehner and the GOP leadership team in the House have worked conservative lawmakers, especially freshmen, hard over the past few days, laboring to tilt momentum in their favor ahead of this evening's vote.

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