POLITICS

Debt ceiling debate missing 2012 GOP candidates

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WASHINGTON. (AP) — Republican presidential candidates are all but silent on Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell's proposal to sidestep a potentially disastrous government default on loan obligations.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Not one candidate has endorsed it, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Newt Gingrich have come out against it. The former House speaker tweeted: "McConnell's plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending."

The hesitation to weigh in — by front-runner Mitt Romney and his rivals — underscores the challenging politics at play for GOP White House hopefuls in the fast-moving debate over increasing the United States' borrowing ability.

Most aren't in Congress, don't have a vote, and, thus, seemingly feel little obligation to wade into the specifics of the complex debate. When they do speak, they are being careful about what they say on the issue, perhaps mindful that whoever emerges as the eventual 2012 nominee — and party standard-bearer — will likely have to contend with the result of tense negotiations between the White House and Congress.

The Treasury Department says lawmakers have until Aug. 2 to extend the nation's debt limit to prevent a catastrophic government default on its bills.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, put the candidates on the spot Tuesday when he offered a proposal that guarantees President Barack Obama's requests for new government borrowing authority unless Congress musters veto-proof two-thirds majorities to deny him. Conservatives assailed the plan that quickly became the latest litmus test for the party's base.

Democrats tried to use it to their advantage, signaling that they intend to try to make the debt debate an issue in the 2012 election.

"Anyone heard from Mitt Romney lately? Where is he on McConnell plan? On the debt talks? On the impact of a default? Why so quiet?" former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod tweeted Wednesday, tweaking the former Massachusetts governor.

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