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Romney: GOP leaders made ‘big mistake’ agreeing to sequester

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in an interview on NBC's “Meet the Press” airing Sunday criticizes GOP leaders, including his own running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for agreeing to the August 2011 debt-ceiling deal.

Romney was asked about the $109 billion automatic spending cut known as the sequester that is due to hit in January. Some $55 billion comes from the defense budget. 

The GOP candidate blasts President Obama for proposing the cuts, which were floated as a way to force the failed debt supercommittee to strike a deal last fall. 

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“I want to maintain defense spending at the current level of the GDP. I don't want to keep bringing it down as the president's doing. This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction,” Romney says.

Pressed on the votes of House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Ryan, in favor of the deal, Romney says that was a “big mistake.”

“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it,” he adds.

The debt-ceiling deal was forged by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden hours before the United States was set to exceed its debt ceiling and begin defaulting on its obligations. 

Republicans had used the debt ceiling to try to force Obama to rein in spending and later touted the $2.2 trillion in spending reductions including those in the sequester. The House last spring passed a bill to replace the automatic cuts with a series of cuts to social programs but Democrats have balked because the measure does not contain new taxes.

Romney also hits Obama for failing to detail the sequester cuts in a report that was due on Friday. 

“The president was responsible for coming out with specific changes they'd make to the defense budget. It was supposed to have come out this last week. He has violated the law that he in fact signed. The American people need to understand how it is that our defense is going to be so badly cut,” he says in the interview.

According to excerpts, Romney also offers praise for former President Bill Clinton and suggests Clinton could get elected if he were not barred by the Constitution from serving a third term. 

“You know, if the Constitution weren't in his way, perhaps. But I don't know the answer to that. But he did stand out in contrast with the other speakers,” he says, referring to Clinton's blockbuster speech this week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Romney says Clinton managed to "elevate" the convention.

"And frankly, the contrast may not have been as, as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who'd go before him and who'd go after," he adds.

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