MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Friday compared the deficit-cutting supercommittee efforts to making a deal with the devil but stopped short of saying whether he supports a plan offered by some GOP lawmakers that includes increased tax revenue.
The former Massachusetts governor, who leads many polls in race for the GOP nomination, has avoided direct comment over the past few days on the proposal offered by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that would raise revenue by limiting the tax breaks enjoyed by people who itemize their deductions, in exchange for lower overall tax rates for families at every income level.
A growing number of Republicans in Congress have said they would support a tax overhaul package that increases revenues if it is paired with significant spending cuts, but Romney's position has been less clear.
A campaign spokeswoman has said only that Romney "does not believe that more revenues and tax increases are the answer to our fiscal woes." And Romney told his New Hampshire audience that he disagrees with Democrats who want "a proposal to raise taxes a lot."
But he didn't go beyond that while speaking to members of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and he took no questions from reporters, who were asked to leave the law firm that hosted the gathering before he left the building.
The congressional supercommittee has until Wednesday to produce a plan to cut deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Failure would trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon and a wide variety of domestic programs beginning in 2013, an outcome Romney called "entirely unacceptable."
If the committee fails, "we have been fed a Faustian bargain," Romney told his audience. "We'll see hundreds of billions of dollars cut from our military at a time when the world is not a safe place."
Asked by an audience member what he would like to see the committee purpose, Romney said it should eliminate unnecessary programs such as the Obama administration's health care overhaul and return other programs, including Medicaid, back to the states. He also called in general terms for "making government itself slimmer" by reducing the number of federal employees and bringing their compensation in line with that of private sector workers.