In my follow-up question to Mitt Romney at his Friday press conference, he seemed within the space of one reply to give a hyper-partisan response in one breath and a broad call for bipartisanship in the next.
Asked about how long it would take a President Romney to get major tax reform through Congress, the candidate said:
“The length of time for tax reform if I became president is dependent, in part, upon whether we elect Republicans in the Senate and the House, and by what number. And so I can’t give you a precise prediction of how long it would take to put in place a full tax reform program until we have those individuals in place…”
That seems like an extraordinary statement for a man who has criticized the incumbent for pushing through an agenda with Democratic-only votes. Romney is basically suggesting that the more members of his party win in November, the easier time he will have muscling through his kind of tax reform. It flies in the face of the notion that major tax reform, like all landmark legislation, requires a bipartisan compromise, both for passage and implementation.
But then Romney went on to say the President blew it on these issues by not being bipartisan enough at a critical moment:
“I can tell you I think one of the great opportunities for our nation was proposed when the President’s tax commission, the President’s commission — budget commission — came back, and I’m talking about Simpson-Bowles. Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Clinton, they worked together on a bipartisan series of recommendations. Why the President did not seize upon that? If he thought some aspects of it needed to be adjusted, make some adjustments if he wanted to. Take it to Congress. But instead, it just died. This — we need to have presidential leadership. We haven’t had presidential leadership on budget matters.”
You can watch the whole exchange here:
So there you have it: Barack Obama failed by not seizing the bipartisan moment to do tax reform — and Mitt Romney hopes he sees enough Republicans elected in November that he doesn’t even have to consider doing tax reform in a bipartisan way.