Romney Slams Tax Cut Deal

By: By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Deputy Political Director
By: By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Deputy Political Director

(CNN) -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not a fan of the tax cut compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans.

In an op-ed Tuesday in USA Today, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate calls the plan a "bad deal" -- making Romney the first possible 2012 GOP White House contender to come out against the proposal other than former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

While Romney points out what he calls the good parts of the deal, such as the reduction of payroll taxes, the keeping intact of the income current tax rates, and the extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, he takes issue with much of the proposal, saying the tax cut extension is only temporary and that the deal adds to the nation's deficit.

"Intermixed with the benefits are considerable costs of consequence. 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. The new, more conservative Congress should reach a better solution," Romney writes.

The piece was published just hours before the Senate is scheduled to vote on final approval of the plan. The deal cleared a key procedural hurdle Monday, with an 83-15 vote to end Senate debate on the measure. Anticipating final Senate approval of the measure, President Obama Monday urged the House to pass it quickly, despite the misgivings of many House Democrats who are opposed to the current deal.

In his op-ed, Romney says the compromise, if enacted, could benefit the president politically: "President Obama has reason to celebrate. The deal delivers short-term economic stimulus, and it does so at the very time he wants it most, before the 2012 elections. But the long term health of our great engine of prosperity will remain very much in doubt."

The op-ed may be an attempt by Romney to tout his fiscal discipline chops, and could be an attempt of outreach to fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists, who will be an important constituency in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries and caucuses.

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