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In an earlier interview, Romney says essentially the same thing about cutting the Department of Education and fighting against teachers' unions.
At a private fund raiser in Florida Sunday evening, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told donors that he would likely eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development and that he would cut or consolidate the Department of Education with another government agency.
"I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," Romney said. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I'm not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we've got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."
Asked about the fate of the Department of Education in a potential Romney administration, the former governor suggested it would also face a dramatic restructuring.
"The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said, explaining that part of his reasoning behind preserving the agency was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile.
At that time, Sen. Ted Kennedy ran ads against Romney — then a political neophyte — accusing him of being uncaring for saying he wished to eliminate the agency.
Romney told the audience here tonight (along with the Weekly Standard in an interview in early April) that that experience remains fresh in his mind. It's contributed to his caution in publicly naming federal agencies and programs he would eliminate or dramatically curtail.
In other words, Romney would tell people what he's going to cut, but he doesn't want people to use his actual policy positions against him. Romney surrogate, Sen. Jim Talent, walked backed the candidate's position even further, suggesting Romney was just spitballing ideas:
"He was just discussing ideas that were coming up on the campaign trial," Talent said about Romney's closed door comments. "he talks about ... different ideas as they've come up on the stump. He wasn't announcing a policy yesterday."