A House (and Senate) divided: Would Romney be more likely to get legislative ball rolling?
"If Romney loses, are Republicans in the House gonna hit themselves on the forehead with the palm of their hands and say, 'We've been doing it all wrong'? No," Lofgren said. "They'll say, 'Well Romney lost because he wasn't a true conservative, so we have to stick to our principles.'" Like Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana and former Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah, both ousted in their primaries by far-right opponents, Lofgren said, "if that very determined base of the Republican Party doesn't think you're holding to your principles, they'll primary you right out of there."
Added Sabato: "Anything Republicans do to help Obama get his agenda done will help the Democratic nominee in 2016, and you can expect them to be very mindful of that."
A Romney win doesn't guarantee a suddenly functioning legislative assembly line, of course. Two things could happen, Lofgren said, that would land Romney in the same intransigent environment muddying Washington now: "If he's elected due to this base - this Tea Party-inspired base that's very fired up - and he's been pandering to that base, he'll still be looking at a lot of constraint if he doesn't completely follow through," he said. And even if Republicans take the Senate, the tables will be turned and "Democrats could prove to be just as disciplined a minority as Republicans were this time around" at blocking legislation.
Still, if a Democratic minority capable of blocking with a filibuster "pulls that trigger as many times as Republicans have," Lofgren said, a budget - debate over which brought the government minutes away from a shutdown last year - could go through under the Senate's reconciliation process. And with Rep. Paul Ryan - Romney's running mate and current chair of the House Budget Committee - as president of the Senate, "he would be that 51st vote," Lofgren said.
While new polls show Romney gaining ground among likely voters in key swing states, though, national polls of registered voters indicate at this point that an Obama reelection is more likely. The good news, Lofgren said, is even without cooperation from Congress, the president has accomplished "a fair amount, considering. Health care and the stimulus - those were big deals."
Whatever the outcome on Election Day, don't expect much from Congress - currently out of session until after the election - in the lame duck period, Lofgren warned. The Bush-era tax cuts, set to expire Jan. 1, and the already-expired farm bill are among legislation that demand attention before the Jan. 21 Inauguration.
"If Romney wins and brings some more with him in the House and Senate, Republicans would probably insist on a temporary extension so they get their own people seated later, and concoct something more to their liking," Lofgren said. "If it's the other way around, I don't think Republicans in the minority not holding the White House would be in any mood to pass some sort of grand bargain."
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