Partial government shutdown: If anyone knows how it'll end, it's Tony Romo
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback turned analyst extraordinaire Tony Romo. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
I don't know if President Trump will ever get his border wall.
But I bet Tony Romo does.
I don't know if President Trump will still come to the Capitol a week from Tuesday to deliver his State of the Union address.
But I bet Tony Romo does.
I don't know when the government shutdown will end.
But I bet Tony Romo does.
Consider CBS' lead NFL color commentator Tony Romo a modern day Nostradamus. In Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, Romo repeatedly glanced at various offensive formations and alignments. Then just before the snap, Romo would accurately predict what was about to unfold.
"Ah! They're killing it," yelled Romo as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walked to the line of scrimmage and barked an audible, changing the play. "It usually means a motion and a wide-out run to the right."
The next thing you know, tight end Rob Gronkowski goes into motion and running back Sony Michel bolts ten yards over the right side of New England's offensive line, and into the end zone.
It was just as Romo prophesized. The touchdown put the Patriots on top with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
Moments later, Romo saw Gronkowski was lined up wide to the left. Romo noted the tight end was who the Patriots wanted to throw to "one on one."
"They've finally got him. There he is," observed Romo, circling Gronkowski with his yellow telestrator at the top of America's TV screens.
Brady then lofted a pass to Gronkowski along the far sideline, just four yards from the goal line.
"(Brady) saw what you saw, Tony," said CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz of his clairvoyant partner.
The oracle of overtime then augured that Brady would toss to Julian Edelman in the middle of the field. Sure enough, the pass went to Edelman, right down Broadway.
And then the game winner.
"Watch the top of the screen. Gronk is out wide. Watch this safety. If he comes down, there’s a good chance (Brady's) throwing out there," prophesized Romo.
Sure enough, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen snuck toward the middle of the field. A second later, Brady connected again with Gronkowski in the space just vacated by Sorensen.
No one has any answers to much of anything in Washington right now. President Trump is insistent on his border wall. Democrats in Congress are unwavering in their defiance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., practically told the President to get lost when it came to delivering the State of the Union on Jan. 29. Mr. Trump suggested he was coming when he told the Speaker "see you soon" in his letter quashing her Afghanistan trip. And when it comes to ending the government shutdown, no one has a clue how this turns out. Some Capitol and White House reporters confide that they're even running out of questions to ask.
So, we all need a fortune teller. A palm reader. A telepath.
Who better than Tony Romo?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has largely sat on the sidelines since mid-December. That’s when McConnell advanced a bill to avert a government shutdown – with the understanding that President Trump would sign the legislation. McConnell said repeatedly throughout December that he didn't think there would be a government shutdown. Guess he didn't consult Tony Romo. Of course, the President then threatened a veto of the legislation and here we are.
After five weeks, McConnell extracted himself from the political crevasse. Vice President Pence and son-in-law Jared Kushner huddled with the Senate Republican leader at the Capitol late Thursday. By the weekend, Mr. Trump trumpeted a plan to re-open the government. McConnell cobbled together government funding provisions, supplemental aid to help areas recover from natural disasters, a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, an interim fix for DACA recipients and adjustments for immigrants covered by Temporary Protective Status (TPS).
But even before the President spoke Saturday afternoon, Democrats channeled Tony Romo and decried the offer as unacceptable.
It may be. But McConnell's sprinting ahead with the first real action we've seen in the Senate on government funding since December 19. That's when McConnell moved an interim bill through the Senate with so little drama that senators formed a chorus in the rear of the chamber and sang Christmas carols as the Senate approached the vote.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. and McConnell released the 1,301-page bill Monday night. McConnell hopes to get consent to start debate on the bill Tuesday. But there’s the rub. Democrats could filibuster the "motion to proceed" to the bill. In other words, the first move is the effort to launch debate. McConnell has only one option if there's a filibuster: file a cloture petition to end debate on the motion to proceed to the bill. By rule, cloture petitions take two days to ripen for a vote. Plus, they need 60 yeas. That means the vote just to start on the bill may not come until Thursday. And if the Senate in fact commandeers 60 yeas, it’s possible the Senate may not actually begin debate on the package until late in the day on Friday.
McConnell's gambit is simple: force Senate Democrats – and perhaps even House Democrats – to support his measure, or begin objecting and blocking GOP efforts to re-open the government. Yes, President Trump may have claimed the mantle of the shutdown long ago. But McConnell's ploy is to make sure Democrats bear equal responsibility. In other words, either Democrats help re-open the government, or they're part of the problem.
Getting 60 yeas is far from a done deal. The Senate math is thus: 53 Republicans, 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats. All 53 Republicans need to stick together and then coax seven Democrats to join the fray.
On one hand, it’s good for Senate GOPers to be seen as voting "for" an end to the shutdown. A vote like this could boost the prospects of Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., all up for re-election in 2020 in battleground states. But what if conservatives revolt and immigration hardliners portray the DACA provisions as "amnesty?" A vote for the plan could haunt those senators and spark a primary challenge from the right.
By the same token, McConnell can also force Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., to take a tough vote. Jones is up in 2020 in deep Trump territory. How will lawmakers who represent large federal constituencies like Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., vote?
Better check Romo's telestrator to see if the safety slips down into zone coverage to predict the outcome on this one.
But let's say the Senate is able to act. That means the Senate can send to the Democratic-controlled House a measure which the President indicated he'll sign. That could put pressure on Pelosi. If nothing else, Republicans want to again "toxify" Pelosi and convert the House Speaker, not Trump, into the face of the shutdown.
Isn't McConnell's effort to pass a package of bills to fund the government similar to the maneuver House Democrats have executed all month? Approving various bills to fund all or part of the government? Not quite. McConnell (supposedly) has a blessing from President Trump that he'll sign the Senate accord. That’s a lot different from the DOA bills the House rifled through the past few weeks.
Presuming President Trump in fact sticks to his word and signs the Senate package if it moves through both chambers.
Would Trump sign the bill?
Better ask Tony Romo.