The Gang of Six and the Gang of Eight

by Reihan Salam

Robert Costa’s latest on Sen. Tom Coburn and the Gang of Six’s efforts to craft a compromise tax and entitlement reform plan to head off the fiscal cliff reminded me of Josh Kraushaar’s piece on a potential Gang of Eight come 2013. If Mitt Romney manages to win this fall, he will need Democratic allies to overcome the filibuster and to gain cover for his ambitious reform agenda. So Kraushaar argues that he should look to Democrats from states he is expected to win by a comfortable margin:

If Romney is savvy, the first people he’d reach out to would be Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mary Landrieu, D-La. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V. Add independent Angus King to the Senate — he’s the frontrunner in this year’s open seat Maine Senate race — and pragmatic Virginia moderate Mark Warner and there’s a caucus of at least eight clear swing votes that could line up Romney’s way.

I’ve argued in the past that Romney’s natural instinct is to try to reconcile clashing interests and agendas, drawing on his father’s reputation as a pragmatic, non-ideological problem-solver. But the political climate has grown more partisan since he first entered the political fray, in part because control of the House is seriously contested between more ideologically coherent parties, and Romney has had to adapt. I’m optimistic that there are policies that could keep the right united while winning over a swathe of the pragmatic center-left, e.g., something like the Ponnuru-Stein family-friendly approach to tax reform or, more contentiously, a base-broadening, (somewhat) revenue-raising approach; progressive higher education vouchers; a PPACA-replacement agenda that delivers significant coverage expansion, etc. It’s hard to tell if a Romney administration would actually pursue these ideas, or if it could make the case for them effectively. But he should certainly try, as doing so would help broaden the GOP and, more importantly, put the federal government on a more sustainable, productivity-enhancing trajectory.  

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.