The tax cuts extension deal negotiated by the White House and congressional leaders sailed through the Senate Wednesday, but by the time the extensions are set to expire, the 2012 presidential campaign will be in full swing.

It's a subject that has split a number of Republicans who may enter the 2012 race. They include Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), who took to the Senate floor Tuesday to defend his support, "It's easy to stand on the sidelines and to criticize this proposal ... but advocating against this tax proposal is to advocate for a tax increase."

Sources say Thune's remarks were in direct response to a Mitt Romney op-ed published Tuesday in USA Today. In it, Romney wrote, "What some are calling a grand compromise is not grand at all, except in its price tag."

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) also voiced his opposition on the House floor Wednesday calling the package a "bad deal for taxpayers."

Another potential 2012 contender, Sarah Palin, hasn't explicitly opposed the deal, but has praised Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for doing just that.

Thune is not alone in backing the compromise. Support, though sometimes qualified, has also come from Newt Gingrich, Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) , Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) and Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor, and 2008 hopeful, notes that the tax cut extensions would help businesses struggling to make informed decisions about expansion and hiring, adding, "It means more money in the hands of the private sector and less in the hands of government."

Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, says come 2012, "Those who supported this deal will certainly be able to say, ‘I helped to prevent a catastrophe.'"

Political experts also warn that those criticize the deal better be ready to explain to voters how they would have reached a better solution.

Dave Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union is happy candidates across the spectrum will be forced to weigh in on the future of the tax cuts during primary season.

"From a conservative standpoint, to have the tax question back up on the table at the time the next election is going to take place is all to the good," Keene said.