Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) broke his silence on the congressional debt-ceiling fight on Monday, emerging to say he couldn't back the final deal announced Sunday.
Romney, who had refused to weigh in during recent weeks on the specifics of various proposals to raise the debt ceiling, said he couldn't personally back the deal brokered over the weekend between congressional GOP leaders and President Obama.
Romney joins Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) as another member of the Republican presidential field to oppose the deal, which has been sold by GOP leaders to rank-and-file members as the best achievable plan.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) had opposed an earlier and more conservative iteration of Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt-ceiling proposal. He didn't explicitly oppose the new deal on Monday, but his spokesman talked down the compromise.
"This deal is nothing to celebrate. 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," said a spokesman for Pawlenty, Alex Conant. "While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced.”
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has emerged as the only Republican presidential contender in support of the deal.
The statement by Romney is significant because of the relative silence he'd maintained throughout the virtual entirety of the debt-ceiling fight, which has dominated Congress for the better part of the last few months.
Romney's opponents, both Republican and Democratic, had seized on the putative front-runner's refusal to telegraph his thoughts on the debt debate. Privately, Romney's aides worried that weighing in at every stage, on every twist and turn of the debate, would be productive for neither their campaign nor Republican negotiators.
Romney had instead consistently voiced support for the "cut, cap and balance" principles sought by conservative House and Senate members.
“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," he said Monday. "President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute."
Just as significantly, Romney's statement puts him to the right of Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at a pivotal time, as they work to whip up enough votes to pass the legislation before Tuesday night's default deadline.
—Updated at 10:49 a.m.