Tribune editorial: This is a Republican shutdown

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, smiles during a mock swearing in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, as the 116th Congress begins. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

This is not Mitt Romney’s government shutdown.

The new senator from Utah is, after all, still getting his phone line connected. The official Senate website still refers to him as “Senator-elect Mitt Romney.”

Romney entered the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body with more gravitas than most junior senators. And his recent campaign was largely based on the not unreasonable promise that he, unlike more callow and ambitious politicians, would have an ability to apply just the right mix of charm and pressure to actually get things done.

So far, not all that good.

But this mess belongs — lock, stock and missed paychecks — to the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans. Republicans who, don’t forget, couldn’t pass a budget, with or without a southern border wall, when they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.

The ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government has gone from glitch to embarrassment to national security threat. Romney, or someone, is going to have to change the gridlocked dynamic of Washington, and soon.

Or is the prospect of thousands of key federal workers — air traffic controllers, airport security screeners, Secret Service agents — reporting to work every day while threats of foreclosure loom in the backs of minds that should be focused on the task at hand not threatening enough?

And then there are the 46,000 Internal Revenue Service employees — 337 of them at the Ogden IRS center — called to return to their desks, without pay. Does anyone really want to rely on dragooned workers, even the most public spirited of them, to provide assistance with complex tax matters at a time when those same workers are maxing out credit cards or contemplating moving back in with their parents?

Reliable reports out of Washington hold that there are enough votes — Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate — to pass a spending bill that will reopen the whole of the federal government, at least for awhile, kicking down the road the issue of how much, if any, money should be devoted to the president’s dream of a fortification along the border of the United States and Mexico.

Enough votes to pass, but not to override an anticipated presidential veto. Or to overcome an outburst of calculated outrage from the right-wing media machine that apparently holds more sway over the Oval Office than any true concern about national security, the national economy or even the long-term popularity of any elected official.

Which is apparently why McConnell will not allow his chamber to even debate, much less vote, on any spending bill.

Maybe the decision of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to basically cancel this month’s planned State of the Union Address will get someone’s attention. Maybe Romney can go to the White House, play Good Cop to the speaker’s Bad Cop, and tempt the president into a deal that will allow everyone to claim some piece of victory.

It’s time.