Political Animal


October 12, 2012 4:01 PM Bipartisanship in a Romney Administration

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve probably yelled enough about the mendacity of Mitt Romney’s claims last week that he’d “sit down with Democrats” the day after the election and start charting a bipartisan path for the country. But Paul Ryan was up to it again last night, arguing that he couldn’t tell us how he’d pay for an across-the-board tax cut because that would be up to bipartisan negotiations in Congress (as though they could repeal the laws of mathematics!).

Most readers here are probably familiar with the relentless demonization of bipartisanship as “surrender” throughout the Republican primaries, and the specific pledges Romney made to remain faithful to policies guaranteed never to attract a single Democrat (from a repeal-and-reverse approach to health care, to the cut-cap-balance meta-pledge, to the many promises never to accept a tax increase). The most important pledge Romney made, in my opinion, is to sign Paul Ryan’s budget resolution as is if Republicans manage to whip it through Congress using reconciliation procedures, which would mean revolutionary changes in the structure and purpose of the federal government, adopted swiftly on a party-line vote.

But what happens if Romney wins and Republicans fall short of getting control of the Senate? Would this scenario enable him to break his promises and perhaps unleash that secretly moderate Mitt who’s been lying through his teeth the last five years or so?

I don’t think so. Even if Romney is so inclined (and I so no particular reason to believe he is), he’d be dealing with a highly mutinous House GOP and the bulk of a Senate GOP Caucus that would insist the new president use his leverage not to cut deals but to break skulls. Depending on the margin of Democratic control of the Senate, and the identity of the Democratic Caucus, there would almost definitely be an effort to buy a vote or two to put them in operational control of Congress, and with items like the repeal of Obamacare and the enactment of the Ryan budget on the table, they’d pay a pretty high price for treason. If that didn’t work, the combination of Republican control of the House, the presidential veto, and GOP filibuster power in the Senate would be used to squelch any Democratic legislation on even the most quotidian matter. With the entire bipartisan commentariat and the business community screaming for action to avert a “fiscal cliff,” Republicans would probably get their way on that set of threshold issues simply by way of superior leverage. And even without congressional support, a new administration could probably paralyze implementation of Obamacare via executive action and inaction.

Perhaps that’s as much as they could accomplish, but beyond that, you’d find a powerful sentiment among Republicans to withhold bipartisan action pending the midterm elections of 2014, when a more favorable electorate (in terms of turnout patterns) and another positive landscape for GOP Senate gains would make the final conquest of Congress a solid betting proposition. And on one big priority of the conservative movement—the final reshaping of the Supreme Court and the reversal of Roe v. Wade—the odds would be very good for a Romney appointment that would survive the Senate on traditional grounds of deference to the president.

More generally, from Romney’s perspective, the certainty of a wholesale uprising by his party’s “base” and its dominant congressional faction in the event of genuine “bipartisanship” would be a much bigger strategic problem than finding ways around a narrow Democratic margin in the Senate. Besides, if Romney does win, it will almost certainly be due to a tilting of the electorate that also makes a Republican Senate more likely than it appears to be today.

In any event, as I’ve said often, Obama and his entire campaign owe it to the country as much as to themselves to demand as many public concessions as possible, in advance, if Mitt and Paul intend to continue right down to Election Day professing their love for bipartisan negotiations. I doubt any real concession will be made, and perhaps it will finally dawn on the media if not the public that there’s really no way around a stark choice between two very different parties and agendas.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • TCinLA on October 12, 2012 4:15 PM:

    Senator Ron Wyden, Lyin' Ryan's example of how "bipartisan" he is, went on his Facebook Page right after the debate to denounce Ryan as a guy whose idea of "bipartisanship" is "you come agree with me."

  • SJ on October 12, 2012 4:16 PM:

    Remember during some of the recent legislative negotiations when folks like Paul Ryan (and Cantor, Boehner, McConnell, etc.) said that the President was failing to show leadership by not putting forth his own detailed legislative proposal (even when he already had)? It's funny how no one mentions that when Romney/Ryan say they'll leave the legislative details to Congress.

  • gus on October 12, 2012 4:17 PM:

    Sorry, I havenít read much of the posts today, and I only got through two paragraphs on this one.

    What I want to know is did Romney, upon entering office as governor of Massachusetts let the Democratic legislature set the agenda? Did he pretty much do what G. Bush did upon getting elected in Texas?

    Romney only served one term in Mass. before going back to become a full-time, professional campaigner for elected office. So, Iíve always looked at him as an easy rag doll for another branch to swing around.

    Obviously, if--and I doubt it will happen--if he were to be president with the likely make-up of the legislature, heíd have some latitude to be a Republican that the most persuasive Republicans want,This could happen if the House and Senate were filled with Democrats. Why? Because he could just run against them and pretty much coast upon not achieving much. As governor, to achieve anything, he had to follow otherís lead.

    But, as POTUS, heíd have to suck up and do what the other branch wants or risk doing nothing they want and claiming to be bullied.

    What a piece of work he is and What a screwed up thing the GOP has become. But, heís a follower. The bluster he is trying to project doesnít mean squat and any of those party/surrogates/ commentators/etc in the GOP know it. They see him as a tool.

  • T2 on October 12, 2012 4:17 PM:

    I read that U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose to its highest in five years in October.
    How long before Darryl Issa investigates that? Sounds like phony numbers, huh, Issa?

    There's your "bipartisan" stuff...good news gets investigated by a House panel of Tea Baggers. There's not gonna be any "bipartisan" cooperation by the crazy right wing nuts if Romney wins and they take the Senate.....good god Ed, that will be the nail in the coffin of bipartisanism...if it's not already stone dead.

  • Nick on October 12, 2012 4:18 PM:

    Ed, do you know where I can get a cyanide capsule?

    I'm 61 years old, and after Denver, stressed all to hell. I'm too old to have anything terrible happen to me that hasn't already, but our country and those who are younger will suffer so greatly. I really can't believe this is happening. I never dreamt it after the 2008 result and right up to that first debate.

    Ceremonially burning my Obama memorabilia if we lose this thing because Mr. Above-It-All couldn't be bothered will be no comfort.

    I'm just stunned and depressed over this turn of events, and I hope no one tells me as they do at the Kos to suck it up and 'work harder' because 'we got this.'

  • c u n d gulag on October 12, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Romney will NEVER preside from the center. Or even center-right.

    IF he wins this year, Mitt will be indebted to the base and the billionaires.
    He will do whatever he's told, whenever he's told, sign whatever he's told, and dance to whatever tune they play for him.

    In the meantime, the Republicans/Conservatives, have this year, 2014, and maybe even 2016, for their Apartheid Southern Strategy to pay off in total power, and they will bank everything on winning in those years.

    If Mitt wins with the House but not the Senate, he and the House will dance their Fascist/Dominionist dance, and count on the Senate to stop the Fascism and Theocracy - and then run against them in 2014 and 2016, as examples of Democratic obstructionism to progress.

    The next few years, if Obama wins, without or without control of both or one house, or Mitt wins without TOTAL control, will be nothing but ugly gamesmanship.

    If Mitt wins with both Houses - they win. Game, set, and match! And America is changed, if not forever, at least for several decades.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 12, 2012 4:33 PM:

    The only bipartisanship on display from Romney is the crack of his butt that unites the 2 hemispheres of his ass. To date, Lord Small Balls maintains that the shear force of his personality will inspire others to work together. The Republican's repugnant treatment of the President because "OMG he's black" and likewise, toward Nancy Pelosi will all be washed away by Lord Small Balls waving his magic, but diminutive Mormon weenie at high noon on the first day.

  • Eric Wilde on October 12, 2012 4:56 PM:

    I worry about war fever and how that might effect even the first four years of a Republican presidency.

  • Someone Else on October 12, 2012 5:17 PM:

    OT Aside to Nick,
    Perhaps it's time my friend, to step away from following politics and refocusing your attention on more rewarding things. Of course vote in November but until then, you need to recharge your ++ batteries with good things. In the end, it's really all us humans have anyway.

    It's great you care so much about politics and our country, but it's very important for you right now, to find and hang onto what's important in your life, what makes you special, what gives you joy. No matter who wins this election, you have things in your life politics won't affect. Find those things and hang onto them for dear life.

    Most of all, know your frustrations and stresses are felt by many, and you are not alone by any means. This nation has survived times worse than this, though (Civil war, WWII, Viet Nam) and it's still overcome and grown to the wonderful nation it is today. There is a tomorrow that will be even better and your vote, your caring, together with others, will ensure that day comes.

    Let love, not cyanide, be your way out. [smile]

  • CalStateDisneyland on October 12, 2012 5:26 PM:


    I agree with you. So disheartening that either (1) Pres. Obama (or his advisors) doesn't get how to campaign after all this time or (2) that he doesn't care.

    The poll numbers continue to look worse and worse. The shoe-in election of 10 days ago is no more and at best, at this point, it will be close. At medium to worse, Obama threw it away.

  • castanea on October 12, 2012 5:47 PM:

    "I really can't believe this is happening. I never dreamt it after the 2008 result and right up to that first debate.

    "Ceremonially burning my Obama memorabilia if we lose this thing because Mr. Above-It-All couldn't be bothered will be no comfort.

    "I'm just stunned and depressed over this turn of events, and I hope no one tells me as they do at the Kos to suck it up and 'work harder' because 'we got this.'"

    Seriously, people who make comments like these, apparently based on a single, suboptimal (and not terrible, as emoprogs and rightwingers would have us believe) debate performance, need to put on the Big Boy pants and grow a spine.

    The problem with the whiny left is that it thinks it can stay back in the shadows and snipe at its allies, instead of sniping at its enemies, with no ill effect on the goals all us reasonable liberals seek.

    Honestly, some angry old commenters here could have been drawn from central casting of a Breitbart production.

    They are caricatures of sniveling, back-stabbing, gutless liberals so completely that I often wonder if they are merely adept rightwing visitors here to demoralize Democrats.

  • Ton on October 12, 2012 5:50 PM:

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 12, 2012 6:28 PM:

    Look Obama could only be the "first" once. The night he claimed the Presidency and every damn day since Republicans have worked as hard as they can to diminish him in every way possible. If you haven't read the Ta Nehisi Coates piece "Fear of the Black President" do so. It lays out the paradox that Obama has faced for 4 years. I'm pretty sure it was recommended here when it was published.


    I can only speak for myself. I was excited about Obama in 2008 exactly because of his smarts, his demeanor and his sincerity. He is not perfect - Hell no. I'm not a historian but I wager that history will show he was faced with a very serious recession teettering on a depression and active obstruction from the party of racist, ignorant, throwback fools who are getting crazier by the day and are backed by 5 nutcase Supremes. .

    The world is experiencing monumental and painful changes even as it shrinks dramatically with technology and increased access. The balance of power in the world is shifting. The opposing party is stuck in a "cold war mindset" and thinks saber rattling has some legitimacy.
    If you aren't wearing a suicide vest your not serious.

    Frustration is natural, but we are all as much responsible for what is happening in this country as Obama. Sitting on your ass and blah blah blah doesn't count as engaged. Frustration starts to sound like self pity. Give some money to campaigns, ACLU, Common Cause, Southern Poverty Law Center, whatever if you have it. If you don't, get out there and help, register voters, be a poll watcher, confront a few True the Vote goons, help a campaign. But STOP fucking whining about Obama!

    There's great pix of Obama on Reality Chex under the Oct 10th commentariat. He's pointing and the caption is
    "chill the fuck out, I got this".


  • castanea on October 12, 2012 7:21 PM:

    Diane @ 6:28,

    You said much more politely and eloquently exactly the point I was trying to make. Thank you.

  • Nick on October 12, 2012 10:21 PM:

    As a 'gutless, back-stabbing, spineless liberal,' I thank you, Someone Else and Cal State.

    I knocked doors for McGovern 40 years ago trying to explain his "$10,000 for every household" remark. This year I've stood in front of supermarkets with a clipboard asking 200 people if they've registered, and getting the fish-eye from about 190 of them each time.

    So yeah ... I've been sent here by the Romney campaign, Castanea. You figured me out.

    And yes ... Obama has no blame for turning a sure win into a probable loss with whatever the hell that approach was in Denver. That was the fault of us gutless liberals.

  • castanea on October 12, 2012 11:13 PM:

    My point stands unchallenged by your comment.

    Anyone who makes it a habit of sniping at allies and demoralizing comrades deserves the "back-stabbing" moniker.

    And anyone who thinks that A SINGLE SUBOPTIMAL DEBATE PERFORMANCE is enough to ruin the race isn't a clear thinker.

    But, hey, people can repeat the rightwing memes to their heart's content, I guess. Just because the rightwing doesn't send someone doesn't mean they don't do the GOP's bidding.

  • Robert Waldmann on October 13, 2012 12:21 AM:

    his is not really on topic and obvious. Romney and Ryan are lying about how negotiation works. The way it works is that one side makes a proposal then the other side makes a counter proposal. The idea that a specific proposal blocks negotiation rather than starting negotiation is obviously false and plainly a lie.

    They are very obvious about it. They say they can't make an offer because all offers are take it or leave it offers. This absolutely is the argument on which their campaign rests. It is obviously nonsense.

    I think the fact that the Romney/Ryan campaign is based on an obvious lie is not mentioned, because it is so obvious. But many people plan to vote for them, so it is clearly not obvious enough.

  • jhm on October 13, 2012 9:30 AM:

    Before reality sets in, I think we need another trip to the fantasy that Dems will retain the Senate, and do something substantial with cloture reform. Not only would this be a long neglected and important action in its own right, but would make this type of analysis much more interesting.

  • Thor on December 05, 2012 2:53 AM: