Washington (CNN) - Sen. John Thune. R-South Dakota, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to defend the agreement reached between Republicans and President Obama on extending Bush-era tax cuts. And Thune used his speech to take a veiled shot at potential rivals for the GOP presidential nomination who have criticized the deal.
"It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize this deal," Thune said. "And it would perhaps be politically expedient to stand on the sideline and criticize this tax deal. But to advocate against this tax deal is to advocate for a tax increase."
Thune, who is considering a run for president, emphasized that if no deal had been reached, then taxes for Americans would have increased next month.
His speech came on the same day that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney published a column in USA Today titled, "Tax deal, bad deal". Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, another possible presidential candidate, posted a critical comment on her Twitter account about the deal last week.
"Obviously Obama is so very, very wrong on the economy & spins GOP tax cut goals; so fiscal conservatives: we expect you to fight for us &... America's solvency," she wrote.
Unlike previous years, the race for the GOP presidential nomination is getting off to a slow start. Republican presidential hopefuls are not expected to start officially declaring their candidacies until well into 2011.
A spokesman for Thune's office offered no further comment regarding the senator's remarks.
–Follow Mark Preston on Twitter: @PrestonCNN