You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Why is Mitt Romney Undercutting his Allies in Congress?

[Guest post by Jarad Vary]

Mitt Romney is rolling out his deficit agenda, GOP allies be damned.

Promoting his plan in a USA Today op-ed yesterday, Romney warned that “The irresistible mathematics of debt will soon lead to unimaginable peril.” President Obama, Romney added, “inherited a severely imbalanced budget, and he made it much worse.” Campaign spokesman Andrew Saul underscored the point in an email to ABC News: “The middle class won’t see an improvement in their situation until Barack Obama is defeated and gone.” Romney’s message: Only I can prevent fiscal Armageddon.

This may be news to the congressional Super Committee. The Committee, Romney may recall, has likewise promised to save the country from fiscal Armageddon. And this week, after months of posturing, the Committee looks more open to reaching an agreement before its November 23 deadline. Now, the former Massachusetts Governor has made this outcome harder to achieve.

What happened? Only last week, prospects for a bipartisan deal seemed dire. But three days ago, forty Republican congressional representatives joined sixty Democrats to sign a letter to the Super Committee that was, in the context of this summer’s GOP hard line against taxes, nothing short of remarkable. The lawmakers’ letter urged the Committee to consider all means of deficit reduction—new revenue sources along with cuts to entitlement and discretionary programs. And with congressional approval ratings dipping into the dangerous OJ Simpson range, Committee members may be receptive to this call for compromise.

Mitt Romney will not be rooting for them to reach a “grand bargain.” Indeed, Romney’s proposals are unlikely to encourage any bargaining at all. The candidate touts a sweeping three-pronged plan to trim spending, through 1) devolving Medicaid to state control; 2) shrinking the federal workforce through attrition; and 3) eliminating federal funds for everything Republicans hate, including foreign aid, trains, fine art, planned parenthood, and Obamacare. Needless to say, there is no new revenue. This is not a negotiating posture. It is a conservative wish list. Famous compromiser and Congressman Paul Ryan confirms as much, in an interview with Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin:

“Look at what he put out! This is a great development. It shows that the elusive adult conversation is taking place, but all on one side.” He ticked off the proposals including block-granting, cutting the federal workforce and entitlement reform. He said, “This tracks perfectly with the [summer] House budget.”

Romney’s hard, Ryanesque line reduces the maneuvering room for his allies on the Hill. But this is not the first time Romney has sought to undercut congressional Republicans—China is an earlier example—and, moreover, it is the logical outcome of two groups’ fundamentally divergent strategic imperatives. Presidential challengers have every interest in promoting voter dissatisfaction with status-quo institutions. For Romney, 9% congressional approval fits the bill. For incumbent Congressmen and women? Not so much. Let’s hope that House GOP representatives discover where their self interest lies, and come to an agreement with their Democratic Party counterparts this month.