ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday sharpened the divide between other possible GOP hopefuls who, like him, oppose the tax deal brokered between the White House and Republicans Congressional leaders, and those who support it.
In an Op-Ed published in USA Today, Romney argued that because the tax cuts are only temporary, the plan “will fail to deliver its full potential for creating lasting growth.”
“Given the unambiguous message that the American people sent to Washington in November, it is difficult to understand how our political leaders could have reached such a disappointing agreement,” Romney wrote. “The new, more conservative Congress should reach a better solution.”
Romney joins several other potential 2012 contenders who have also come out against the compromise plan, which includes a temporary extension of the Bush era tax cuts at all income levels as well as an extension of unemployment benefits.
The former Massachusetts governor’s comments appeared to spark a response on Tuesday from South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who has also been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate.
“It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal,” Thune said in a speech on the Senate floor. “And it's perhaps even politically expedient to stand on the sidelines and criticize this proposal. But let me make one thing very clear Mr. President, advocating against this tax proposal is to advocate for a tax increase.”
Thune did not mention Romney specifically in his remarks. (Also worth noting: Romney and Thune do agree on another thorny issue: they both have come out against the START arms reduction treaty. Thune called it " flawed" and Romney wrote that the treaty will likely be rejected. And well it should be.")
Another potential presidential hopeful, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, confirmed on Tuesday that he would vote against the tax deal when it arrives in the House.
“At the end of the day, I've just come to the conclusion: the American people did not vote for more stimulus,” Pence told Sean Hannity on his radio show. “Therefore, I will not vote for this tax deal when it comes to the floor of the House of Representatives.”
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin already registered her disapproval of the proposal in a series of tweets last week: “Obviously Obama is so very, very wrong on the economy & spins GOP tax cut goals; so fiscal conservatives: we expect you to fight for us & America's solvency.”
But three other potential presidential candidates -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- have all said they support the plan.
Gingrich called the tax plan was “good news for the economy.”
In a video message posted last week on the Web site of his advocacy group, American Solutions, he noted: “It’s possible that it will help start the beginning of a Republican economic recovery based on sound principles that create jobs rather than kill jobs.”
“It is not perfect, but it will move the country forward,” Pawlenty said in a recent interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, adding: “I would support it because of the tax extensions but, again, each side got what they want and the tax extensions are really important.”
And Huckabee recently told the conservative Web site, Newsmax: “I think it’s really important that they get this done.”
“The reason the unemployment rate keeps holding up there near 10 percent is that with uncertainty hanging over business owners, they can’t hire anybody,” Huckabee said.