Blaspheming Saint Romney

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Until around the time Todd Akin blew up his Senate race, the conventional wisdom in campaign world was that if Romney won, he’d carry the House and the Senate as well. That supposition underlay the GOP’s entire substantive agenda from tax reform to entitlement cuts to repealing key provisions of Obamacare. You can’t circumvent the filibuster without controlling the budget process and you can’t control the budget process without controlling both chambers of Congress.

It turns out that CW was wrong. If Romney had won, he’d have had to contend with a Democratically controlled Senate. That means no tax rate cuts for the rich, no Medicare privatization, no Medicaid cuts, etc. etc.Enter National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar who imagines that in this alternative history, President Romney would have magically resolved the budget gridlock we’re experiencing today under a demagogic President Obama.

“[A] close look at the composition of both the Senate and the House suggest the numbers would be there for Romney to pass some combination of spending cuts and the closing of tax loopholes, as he called for in the 2012 campaign. In the Senate, Romney probably would have courted the 12 red-state Senate Democrats, six of whom are up for reelection in 2014, to support some type of compromise…. The Senate has more red-state Democrats than blue-state Republicans, and most of them are up for reelection. These same Democrats who are giving Obama trouble on gun control would be looking to cut a fiscal deal as they prepare for reelection. Win over just five of them, hold enough House Republicans in line, and voila – there’s the bipartisan compromise.”

Set aside for the moment the fact that Romney campaigned against the idea of closing tax loopholes to raise tax revenue. And also set aside the question of whether congressional Republicans would have gone along with Romney’s revenue raising proposals if he’d had a change of heart.

They’d still confront two problems that have been removed by sleight of hand in this thought experiment: floor control and the filibuster. Even if Romney’s unlikely proposals had majority support in the Senate, Republicans would be the Senate minority. They’d lack control of the Senate floor, and even if they could force Harry Reid to bring a bill the vast majority of his caucus opposed to the floor, they couldn’t stop Democrats from filibustering it.

Which means Romney would have to propose a very Dem friendly bill. No severe entitlement benefit cuts, and tax revenues drawn from higher income workers. But that’s more or less what Obama’s offering today, and Republicans are dead set against it. Because they’re fanatically opposed to raising taxes. And unless you imagine away that fact as well, Romney wouldn’t have had any more luck passing Obama’s budget offer than Obama’s having in the real world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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