Debt ceiling debate missing 2012 GOP candidates

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Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom sidestepped an opportunity to answer those questions and instead whacked Obama back on Twitter, saying: "I have a question for (at)davidaxelrod: Where are the jobs? We're not just on wrong track; it feels like we're tied to the tracks."

(Photo: Associated Press)

Pressed on where Romney stood on McConnell's plan, aides repeated Romney's oft-spoken stance on the debt discussion: "A vote on raising the debt ceiling has to be accompanied by a major effort to restructure and reduce the size of government." He deferred to Congress on the details of any such plan.

He and most others say they are open to increasing the nation's borrowing authority but they are insisting that any increase is coupled with provisions that are designed to endear them to the party's conservative base, including a constitutional amendment that would insist on a balanced federal budget and spending cuts.

"We cannot allow it to increase without game-changing reforms to our federal budget. Let's start with a balanced budget amendment, a cap on federal spending levels and real cuts to this year's budget," former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who supports the increase if it allows the GOP to accomplish other political goals, said in an opinion piece published Tuesday in The Des Moines Register.

Gingrich, the former House speaker, has a similar position, saying: "They should pass a spending cut, a savings bill and a balanced budget amendment and dare President Obama to veto them."

Two other candidates — who unlike the others would vote on any plan — have split from the rest, promising to vote against a debt-limit increase.

"Republicans cannot take the bait and get fooled again," said Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And Bachmann, the tea party favorite, noted the issue in her first presidential campaign ad, saying: "I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling."

On Wednesday, she and two other congressional conservatives proposed a bill to guarantee military personnel and others would get paid if Obama and congressional Republicans cannot agree to raise the nation's debt limit.

When asked if she would vote for McConnell's last-ditch effort, Bachmann said she would vote "no."

"I've been here long enough that I've seen a lot of smoke and mirrors but I haven't been here long enough to forget who I serve or where I come from," she told reporters. "And again all I can reiterate is that people across America are saying the spending is what has to be addressed, it's too much, it's got to be limited."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania scolded those who oppose any deal, saying while campaigning in South Carolina that "those who say we should not have any debt limit increase and solve our problem now, that is not sound decision-making."

One other candidate campaigning in South Carolina this week, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, largely took a pass on specific issues in the debate. He supports a balanced budget amendment but sidestepped details of the negotiations, saying "Let it play out. There's time remaining."

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