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A Romney victory agenda will need Democratic support

Mitt Romney campaigns Wednesday Des Moines Iowa.  |  Charles Dharapak~AP

Mitt Romney campaigns Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa. | Charles Dharapak~AP

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Updated: December 5, 2012 6:38AM

Mitt Romney has talked about repealing “Obamacare,” lowering tax rates for businesses and the middle class and radically overhauling Medicare as part of the “fresh start” he envisions as president.

But to think any of those big ideas happens right out of the gate if Romney defeats President Barack Obama Tuesday ignores one important factor.

All trends now point toward Democrats maintaining and perhaps building on their 51-47 seat majority in the U.S. Senate. If that happens, it would mean most of Romney’s conservative agenda – and perhaps even any U.S. Supreme Court nominations he might make — could be reduced to legislative sawdust for at least the first two years of his time in the White House.

“If Romney is going to get anything done at all, other than through executive order, he’s going to have to reach across the aisle, especially in the Senate and work with [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid or whoever is there,” said former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

In virtually every stump speech, Romney has acknowledged having to share control with Democrats, just as he did as a GOP governor in Massachusetts with a majority-Democrat state Legislature.

“It was not lost on me that I would get nothing done unless I was able to have a relationship of respect and trust with people across the aisle,” he said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Tampa.

That means Romney’s biggest campaign pledge — beginning the repeal of the Affordable Care Act on “Day One” of his presidency – would be a congressional non-starter with a Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. On Friday, Romney talked about a series of executive orders he’d authorize that would erode Obama’s signature health-care statute. An executive order lacks the full force of federal law.

“There are ways he can try to shortchange it, short-circuit it,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Chicago Sun-Times, referring to Romney. “But in terms of repealing the law, absent 60 solid Republican votes in the Senate, it’s not going to happen.”

The same dynamic likely would come into play if Romney attempted to follow through on his bid to overhaul Medicare by giving stipends to senior citizens, enabling them to buy their own health-care plan.

As big a priority as those two health-care initiatives, Romney has promised he’d immediately begin work on making America a more business-friendly place to drive job creation.

Romney has promised fewer regulations against small businesses — something he likely could dictate on his own — and wants to make permanent tax cuts imposed under former President George W. Bush that are set to expire. Tax rates for companies and individuals would drop under Romney’s plan, and he has promised to keep existing tax rates on stock dividends, interest and capital gains steady.

“I think you’ll find a dramatic shift with regards to the perspective on where America is going on business, jobs and the economy,” said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Romney’s Illinois campaign chairman.

“He probably won’t get everything he wants, but then it’s how you manage your way in getting the country headed in the direction it needs to go,” the treasurer said. “He recognizes there’s a shared governance.”

As president, Romney would be able to exert himself on certain social issues, though abortion and gun control aren’t likely to be among them.

Romney has hardened his position on abortion from when he was an abortion-rights-supporting Massachusetts governor, now favoring a ban on abortions except in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered. While he favors ending federal funding to Planned Parenthood, that budgetary move likely would trigger a fight with Democrats in the Senate.

On guns, Romney has vowed not to toughen federal gun-control laws.

On gay marriage, Romney has said he’d appoint an attorney general willing to implement the unenforced federal Defense of Marriage Act. He also favors a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as being only between a man and woman, but again Democrats could block that if they control the Senate.

Romney has taken a tough stance on immigration. He opposes the federal DREAM Act, which Durbin helped spearhead. He favors building a “high-tech” border fence and promised “on day one” of his presidency to drop lawsuits aimed at blocking Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

“Romney has — how would I say — supported some of the most radical anti-immigration policies in my 20-year tenure in the Congress of the United States,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told the Chicago Sun-Times, predicting a Romney presidency would “be very bad on immigration policy.”

If he is elected, Romney could exert his influence over the U.S. Supreme Court, where some analysts have predicted turnover of between one and as many as three justices during the next four years.

Hastert predicted Romney would appoint conservative jurists, though the former speaker said he didn’t foresee Romney putting any “ironclad limits” on his potential nominees.

“Look for like-minded justices to [Antonin] Scalia and [Samuel] Alito to be nominated,” Durbin said.

In terms of Illinois, a Romney presidency would have benefits even if the state were to lose its Chicago White House connection in Obama, the GOP nominee’s backers said.

“You’re talking about the basic economy. You need to create jobs. You need to get capital and investment. What’s good for the country is certainly good for Illinois. That’s what Romney brings to the equation,” Hastert said. “The only thing I’ve seen Obama bring to Illinois is he confiscated money from other places and put it into high-speed rail. I don’t know how many people will ride the train from Chicago to Springfield. I’d say it’s mostly Chicago politicians.”

And as for Chicago itself, Rutherford said a Romney presidency could yield a big positive.

“Closing down city airports and expressways because a guy wants to come home to early vote,” as Obama did recently, “that won’t happen under a Romney White House,” the treasurer said.

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