Cosman: Regardless of electoral outcome, divided government will continue to stall progress

There remains a strong possibility that on Nov. 6, President Barack Obama will win his bid for re-election and secure a second term as president. The unfortunate reality, however, is that a second term is unlikely to be much different than his first.

Whether Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney secures the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the election, they are very likely to face a divided Congress. It seems apparent at this point that the Democratic Party will maintain a majority in the Senate and the Republican Party will remain the majority in the House of Representatives.

The havoc wrought by a divided government has been apparent for the past two years – since Republicans took control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections – and the extreme “us versus them” mentality has been around even longer.

It is clear that as long as Republicans have the opportunity to block any legislation proposed by Obama and the Democrats, they will take it, regardless of a policy’s content.

This is the Republican Party that fought tooth and nail against the Affordable Care Act – so much so that the constitutionality of the act was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court – primarily because of its individual mandate that requires citizens to purchase health care. The mandate, they said, was evidence of Obama’s big government.

Yet the individual mandate was not even a Democratic idea at first. It got its start at the Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It was used by Republicans to counter Democrats’ plans for health care reform in the early 1990s. Obama believed he could garner bipartisan support for his health care reform if he included the individual mandate, a conservative idea. But when he proposed it, Republicans revolted – against their own policy.

This is the Republican Party of which 279 congressional incumbents – from both the House and Senate – signed conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist’s pledge to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates.”

Yet when Obama proposed an extension of the payroll tax cut, Republicans refused to budge. Are you telling me that a party of which a majority has pledged itself against tax increases is opposing a tax cut for policy reasons?

This is the Republican Party that brought the nation to the verge of default simply because it would not strike a deal with the president and Democrats, no matter what they proposed. When Obama backed Sen. Harry Reid’s debt deal – which included no new tax revenue – Republicans scoffed. Again, the proposal did not create additional tax revenue, in accordance with Republican “no tax hikes” mentality, yet they still refused to strike a deal.

It has been said countless times, but let it be said again: This is the Republican Party whose first priority was for Obama “to be a one-term president” – not to deal with the economic recession, not to reduce unemployment, not even to address the federal debt.

Maybe those things come with a defeated Obama, but when, in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s words, the “single most important thing [Republicans] want to achieve” is to get Obama out of office; everything else is secondary.

The evidence suggests that not much will change should Obama win reelection. He will face the same staunch opposition in a second term as he faced in his first.

Much the same, Romney is likely to face the same kind of refusal-to-negotiate from congressional Democrats as Obama faced from Republicans. This isn’t necessarily a one-party issue – neither side is willing to work with the other. Until that changes, it doesn’t matter who wins the presidency.