WASHINGTON -- If Republican Mitt Romney wins the presidency next week, enough Democrats probably would be left in Congress to block his promise to roll back the slew of Wall Street rules enacted in response to the financial crisis.
But when it comes to regulations, a president doesn't have to change the laws.
He can simply change the people enforcing them.
"If you don't like the regulations, just cut the head off the beast," said Paul C. Light, a New York University professor and expert on presidential transitions. "The president still has some leverage points for influencing the pace and direction of the regulatory process."
Romney would be expected to appoint new leaders at the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies who would take a less aggressive approach to regulation than those who have served under President Barack Obama.
For example, instead of nominating someone like Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, an advocate of tougher federal oversight of the financial system, Romney would be expected to fill the position with a less activist nominee, such as former George W. Bush administration economic advisor Glenn Hubbard or former World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
In addition, a Romney administration could leave weakened acting heads in vacant regulatory posts, cut funding for some agencies, and delay the implementation of dozens of rules still being written by regulators as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
"He would certainly want to have a regulatory structure that includes the statutes, the regulations and the people enforcing those regulations that places a premium on market-based discipline rather than the discretion of individuals," said Jon Burks, deputy policy director for the Romney campaign.
"He's committed to ensuring that the federal government doesn't increase ... the regulatory burden on the private sector," Burks said. "So every regulation needs to be reviewed in terms of what effect it has on job creation and on economic growth."
Romney, the founder and former chief executive of venture capital firm Bain Capital, has complained that the Dodd-Frank law was a government overreaction to the financial crisis.
"You couldn't have people opening up banks in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work," he said in the first presidential debate. "Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive."
Many of the regulations in the financial reform law fall into that category, Romney said.
Although some concepts are good, such as increased transparency in the financial system and requirements for banks to hold more money to cover potential losses, the law puts too much power in the hands of regulators, he said.
Romney has promised to repeal the financial reform law and replace it with "a streamlined regulatory framework" that would reduce uncertainty for businesses and consumers.