By Russell Berman - 04/13/11 09:34 PM EDT
Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty’s criticism of the budget deal Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) struck with Democrats drew a chilly response from the House GOP leadership.
“I think Tim Pawlenty and others are entitled to their opinion,” 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.”
Pawlenty said in a statement Wednesday the agreement “should be rejected.”
"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.
Asked if Pawlenty could swing Republican votes against the deal, Cantor said he wasn’t sure of the former Minnesota governor’s intent.
“Perhaps he wants to try and do that,” Cantor said. “What I can say is our members understand that what we’ve done is begin taking a first bite of the apple of dealing with the spending and debt crisis.”
The Republican leadership was clearly annoyed by Pawlenty’s late push against the plan, which the House is expected to approve Thursday. A senior GOP aide told The Hill that Pawlenty “would be considered a Blue Dog Democrat” in the 112th Congress.
“A real profile in courage from Governor Pawlenty — who has no responsibilities but rattling off sound bites to appease the base,” the aide said. “In this Congress, Pawlenty would be considered a Blue Dog Democrat … that is, until he pretended to be something else. ”
A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said in response to Pawlenty’s critique: “The Speaker has always honored President Reagan’s ‘11th commandment.’ ”
Reagan famously said he never spoke ill of fellow Republicans.
Boehner’s office included a more detailed rebuttal to Pawlenty, saying the reductions achieved in the budget agreement are “real cuts.”