Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday denounced last year’s bipartisan debt-ceiling deal that helped avert an unprecedented US government debt default even though one of its backers was his running mate, Paul Ryan.
Without mentioning Ryan by name, Romney called the agreement between the White House and top congressional Republicans “a big mistake,” citing potential big defense spending cuts that could come as part of the deal.
Lawmakers reached an 11th-hour deal in August last year after a huge showdown, agreeing on nearly US$1 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years with the promise to impose another US$1.2 trillion to reduce budget deficits.
As head of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Ryan backed last year’s deal.
“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it [and] I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it,” Romney said of the deal.
“I want to maintain defense spending at the current level of the GDP,” Romney told NBC’s Meet the Press in a pre-recorded interview that aired on Sunday. “This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation.”
Unless an agreement is reached by the end of the year to implement the same amount in deficit reduction, automatic spending cuts — known as “sequestration” — of US$1.2 trillion over 10 years, with a big portion in defense spending, would begin on Jan. 2.
So far, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to do so, amid warnings that the possible automatic spending cuts could help push the nation back into a recession.
Ryan, appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, said he supported last year’s deal in a bid to find needed “common ground” with US President Barack Obama and other Democrats. Ryan said Republicans have since proposed ways to reduce “wasteful Washington spending” and avert US$1.2 trillion in automatic cuts.
Ryan said that “President Obama has done nothing” to help reach an agreement to reduce spending while also protecting the economy. The sluggish US economy is the central issue ahead of the Nov. 6 elections.
Obama, in a pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation, said, “I’m more than happy to work with Republicans” to cut such a deal.
However, he repeated his insistence that deficit reduction include revenue increases as well as spending cuts. “We can make sure that we cut two-and-a-half dollars for every dollar of increased revenue,” Obama said. Republicans have opposed any increased revenue from tax hikes, helping create a stalemate.
Romney and Ryan blasted Obama for failing to meet a deadline last week, set by a new law, to explain how he would begin implementing the automatic cuts.
“He has violated the law that he, in fact, signed,” Romney said. “The American people need to understand how it is that our defense is going to be so badly cut.”