When Mitt Romney was roaming the state, trying to convince us that he should be our next United States senator (yeah, like that was a heavy lift), he stressed that his age (I’m not running for president, or maybe even for re-election) and experience (been there, done that) would make it possible for him to be smarter than the average freshman, do deals, count votes, craft ad hoc coalitions with Democrats, stare down Republican leadership and get things done, for crying out loud.
Well, Senator, here’s your chance.
Big parts of the federal government are shut down, going into the fourth week, impoverishing federal employees, damaging the national economy, endangering air travel, food safety and our precious national parks, because the Oval Office Orangutan won’t sign any more appropriations bills unless one of them includes $5.7 billion for his hallucination known as a border wall.
Democrats don’t want that. Many Republicans would vote for it, but aren’t welded to the idea the way the president is. Romney is among those who favor “increased border security,” but does not seem to be putting that long-term goal ahead of the immediate need to open the doors.
He also doesn’t think the situation at our southern border, messy and painful as it is for those on the scene, comes anywhere near justification for the “national emergency” the president is threatening to proclaim.
Various funding bills — without a wall — have been approved by the Senate or the House, but not both. Such a measure might well pass both houses now, except that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell won’t even allow a vote unless he hears that the president would sign it.
In other words, despite what Article I enthusiasts such as Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, might argue, Congress is being subservient to the executive.
So here’s what Romney and whatever coalition of the willing he can put together should do.
Draft two reopen-the-government-now bills that will keep the lights on for at least a year. Make them identical in every way except one includes money for the wall and one doesn’t. Vote on the with-wall version first.
If it passes both houses of Congress, the president will sign it, the government will reopen, and the expert engineers who may finally be consulted will explain why it would be easier to build an elevator to the moon than an effective wall along the border. And/or the good Texas Republicans who own a lot of the land that would be usurped by the wall will chain themselves — or their Mexican seasonal workers — to the bulldozers.
If that version doesn’t pass — and it is almost certain the newly Democratic House won’t approve it — then immediately proceed to vote on the no-wall version. Romney and a few other Republicans should be able to get it over the top to a majority as part of the deal that allowed other members of the Pachyderm Party to say they voted for the wall when they had the chance.
If the president vetoes it, and Romney is as effective as he said he would be, his temporary alliance of reasonable people can jawbone enough of their fellows into an override on the grounds that every other trick had been tried and it’s time to get the government back in business.
Then, the president can issue his national emergency, send the Army to build the wall, and Romney can fulfill what might be his true destiny. He can impeach the mother———.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is well aware that, as a member of the Senate, Mitt Romney would have a hand in convicting, not impeaching, the president. But it doesn’t have the same rhythm.