Romney's Closing Argument: Bipartisanship

on November 02 2012 4:31 PM

In a speech the Romney campaign is billing as its final pitch to voters, the Republican nominee will argue that he is best positioned to break the gridlock in Washington.

President Obama's turn has been marked by endless clashes with Republican lawmakers who bitterly oppose his agenda, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying his party's highest priority was to deny Obama a second term. In a Friday night speech in West Allis, Wisconsin, Romney will say he can do better.

"When I am elected, I will work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress," Romney will say, according to released excerpts of his remarks. "I will meet regularly with their leaders. I will endeavor to find those good men and women on both sides of the aisle that care more about the country than about the politics. Together, we will put the nation on track to a balanced budget, to reform our tax code, and to finally reaffirm our commitment to financial responsibility."

The partisan standoff on Capitol Hill reached its low point last summer, when Republicans refused to authorize raising the nation's borrowing limit without an accompanying deal to cut the deficit. The impasse brought the nation to the brink of default and underscored seemingly insurmountable ideological divides, with Republicans rejecting outright the increased revenue Democrats said needed to be part of any deficit reduction plan.

Congress never did strike a deal, deferring the task to a 12-member "Super Committee," split between Republicans and Democrats, that was similarly unable to reach an agreement. As a result, $1.2 trillion of budget cuts, distributed evenly between defense and domestic discretionary spending, are set to start unfolding in January if Congress cannot act to avert them.

Romney has said the debt ceiling standoff flowed from Obama's failed leadership, and he has repeatedly sought to link Obama to the looming military cuts triggered by the Super Committee's failure (while Obama reportedly disliked the Super Committee idea, he signed the legislation creating it).

Should Obama be re-elected, Romney will say on Friday night, there will be a repeat of last summer's bruising battle -- a moment that saw public approval of Congress plunge to historically low levels.

"You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress," Romney will say. "He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy."

After driving to the right during the Republican primary, Romney has increasingly offered promises of bipartisanship. During the presidential debates he stressed his ability, as governor of Massachusetts, to work with a Democratically-controlled legislature on measures like an assault weapon ban and a health care overhaul. In the second debate, when President Obama faulted Republicans for holding up immigration reform, lamenting that "this used to be a bipartisan issue," Romney interjected quickly.

“I'll get it done," Romney said. "I'll get it done. First year.”

For his part, Obama has predicted that the "fiscal cliff" -- when the first round of Super Committee-mandated cuts coincide with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, at the end of the year -- will compel both parties to work together.

"It will probably be messy," Obama said earlier this month in a previously off the record interview with the Des Moines Register. "It won't be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain I've been offering to the Republicans for a very long time."

Ahead of Romney's speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already released a statement dismissing the notion that a President Romney could successfully reach across the aisle.

"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable," Reid said in a statement, adding that "Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney’s Tea Party agenda."

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