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Mitt Romney Opposes Tax Deal as Republicans Pick Sides

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
AP
AP

Former Massachusetts Gov. and potential GOP 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney today penned an op-ed in USA Today criticizing the tax deal, though he stopped short of urging Republicans in Congress to vote against it.

"Death and taxes, it is said, are life's only two certainties. But in the wake of President Obama's tax compromise with congressional Republicans, only death retains the status of certainty: The future for taxes has been left up in the air," Romney wrote. "And uncertainty is not a friend of investment, growth and job creation."

The deal, which Mr. Obama unveiled last week, would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans for two years, as well as extend unemployment insurance for 13 months, cut the payroll tax for one year and reinstate the estate tax at a relatively low rate and high threshold, among other things. While many Republicans have expressed satisfaction with this deal, they have long argued for a permanent extension of the tax cuts, arguing that making the temporary cuts permanent for America's highest earners will create economic certainty.

"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 writes. "Of course, delay now is better than an immediate tax hike. But because the extension is only temporary, a large portion of the investment and job growth that characteristically accompanies low taxes will be lost."

Romney also criticized the cost of the deal, which is estimated at nearly $900 billion over two years. The package is not paid for. "What some are calling a grand compromise is not grand at all, except in its price tag," he wrote.

The tax cut deal easily won enough votes to move forward in the Senate on Monday. But many House Democrats, rankled over the proposition of extending the tax cuts for the wealthy as well as the proposed estate tax rate, are poised to oppose the measure. It could still pass in the House with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes, however.

Jon Ward of the Daily Caller contends Romney's op-ed could spur congressional Republicans to be more vocal about their concerns with the deal.

"Romney's move has the potential to spur broader opposition to the deal among Republican lawmakers than has previously been seen, and is clearly intended by the former Massachusetts governor as a play for support from Tea Party and grassroots conservatives," Ward wrote.

Groups representing the Tea Party have delivered somewhat mixed messages on the tax cuts, as have Republicans in general.

Romney's op-ed in fact puts him at odds with some other potential 2012 contenders. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News that the deal was a "good" agreement and the "right thing and what the economy needs," The Hill reports, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Newsmax, "I think it's really important that they get this done... because the unemployment rate keeps holding up there near 10 percent ... [and] because with uncertainty hanging over business owners, they can't hire anybody."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was critical but brief in her comments, Tweeting, "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."

While potential Republican presidential candidates lay down their positions on the issue, the group Crossroads GPS, a Karl Rove-affilliated nonprofit group, is preparing to attack vulnerable Democrats on the issue, Politico reports.

Crossroads GPS and the affiliated group American Crossroads emerged as dominant political forces in the 2010 political elections, and now Crossroads GPS is reportedly airing a $400,000 radio ad campaign criticizing 12 vulnerable House Democrats for possibly not supporting the tax cut deal. The group ran a number of misleading or false ads during the 2010 campaign.

A narrator in one 60-second spot targeting Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of New York says, "And whose side is Congressman Tim Bishop on? Will he side with Nancy Pelosi to raise job-killing taxes, or with struggling families and the small businesses that can create the jobs we need?"

Most Democrats have called for the Bush-era tax cuts to be extended for most Americans but not completely extended for the roughly two percent of highest earners.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.