* Taking a harder line than fellow Republicans
* Bashes Obama, calling for severe spending cuts
* Will not vote for Boehner plan
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, July 28 U.S. Representative Michele
Bachmann flaunted her staunch opposition to raising the debt
ceiling on Thursday as she made the case she should be elected
the next president of the United States.
Bachmann, a leading contender for the 2012 Republican
presidential nomination, said she would not vote for a
deficit-reduction plan backed by party leaders in the House of
Representatives because it would sink the country deeper in
Washington must look hard at all of its spending, including
on social programs, said Bachmann, who has been more vocal and
for longer than fellow Republican presidential contenders on
the debt issue.
"I won't raise taxes. I will reduce spending, and I won't
vote to raise the debt ceiling," she said in a speech at the
National Press Club. "And I have the titanium spine to see it
Bachmann, a former tax lawyer and leader of the fiscally
conservative Tea Party caucus in the House, said she did not
believe Democratic President Barack Obama's warnings the
country will default if the debt ceiling is not raised by
Tuesday, accusing him of "scare tactics."
"I do not believe for one minute that we will lose the full
faith and credit of the United States," she said.
A plan proposed by Republican House Speaker John Boehner
was headed for a close vote on Thursday. Bachmann is one of
about two dozen of the 240 House Republicans who could end up
voting against it.
With polls putting her in the top half of the field of
contenders in the crowded Republican nomination race, Bachmann
could benefit from her tough and early stand on the debt issue.
As a member of Congress, she is the only Republican contender
who can vote on the issue.
LEADING FISCAL HAWK
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the early
frontrunner in the Republican nomination race, has faced
scrutiny for his failure to take a strong stance on the issue.
Other candidates who trail Romney and Bachmann in the
polls, including former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and
former Utah Governor John Huntsman, have said they support cuts
in spending but have not gained attention on the issue.
"I don't think it hurts at this point in the race to just
simply say no. It gives her a clear message. It gives her a
very clean, straightforward message," said Stuart Rothenberg, a
nonpartisan political analyst in Washington.
After Aug. 2, without an increase in the Treasury
Department's $14.3 trillion limit on borrowing, the federal
government might not have enough money to pay all its bills.
Partisan deadlock between Republicans and Democrats over
how best to reduce the U.S. deficit, and over what period, has
blocked agreement on how to raise the debt ceiling, raising the
specter of a default by the world's largest economy.
Bachmann blasted Obama repeatedly in her half-hour speech
for failing to offer a plan to cut spending, and praised
Boehner for putting forward a plan, but said the cuts it
delivers are not severe enough.
"The day is fast approaching when our entire budget will be
consumed not only by servicing the national debt, but by
Medicaid, by Medicare and by Social Security," she said,
referring to government health insurance and pension programs
for the poor and elderly.
Bachmann's hard line could play well with Republican voters
who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
"Right now, there's a substantial element of the party that
responds to a kind of anger ... and confrontation. Romney isn't
particularly good at that. Bachmann is quite good at that. And
Pawlenty tries to be angry but can't quite pull it off,"
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Philip Barbara)