ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:
UPDATED: Potential presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty went out on a limb on Wednesday, and House Speaker John Boehner sought to knock him off of it.
Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who recently formed a presidential exploratory committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that the budget deal brokered between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill “should be rejected.”
“The more we learn about the budget deal the worse it looks,” Pawlenty said in a statement after President Obama’s speech outlining his plans to reduce the national deficit.
“The fact that billions of dollars advertised as cuts were not scheduled to be spent in any case makes this budget wholly unacceptable,” Pawlenty continued. “It's no surprise that President Obama and Senator Reid forced this budget, but it should be rejected.”
Pawlenty's comments highlight divisions within the Republican Party about the deal brokered between Democrats and Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, that averted a government shutdown late last week.
Pawlenty did not mention Boehner in his statement, but a spokesman for Boehner did not take kindly to Pawlenty's advice to lawmakers.
“The Speaker has always honored President Reagan’s ‘11th commandment,'" Michael Steel, a spokesman for the Speaker told ABC News, referring to the former president's adage: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
Lawmakers are set to vote on the nearly $40 billion deal on Thursday. "This has been a long discussion and a long fight, but we fought to keep government spending down because it really will, in fact, help create a better environment for job creators in our country," Boehner said last Friday night, announcing the agreement.
House Minority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., told The Hill newspaper on Wednesday that "Pawlenty and others are entitled to their opinion," but that the deal was the best both sides could do.
“There is actually nearly $45 billion in gross spending cuts in the bill, and it cuts $312 billion in spending over the next decade," a top GOP Capitol Hill aide told ABC News. "While it’s true some of the cuts were previously proposed in the president’s budget, many of them were used there to offset new spending elsewhere. They aren’t used that way in the bill. They come straight off the baseline. They’re real cuts.”
Still the compromise has its detractors — especially from within the ranks of the Tea Party — a constituency that Pawlenty has been aggressively courting. More than two-dozen lawmakers in both the House and Senate have said they plan to vote "no" on the budget plan. Pawlenty has two tax day events scheduled for Friday with Tea Party groups in Concord, N.H. and Boston.