SALT LAKE CITY — As the dust settles in wake of Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote to convict fellow Republican President Donald Trump for abuse of power, Utah House GOP met in closed caucus Tuesday to figure out what to do with bills to censure or possibly recall Romney.
Those bills won’t be going anywhere, according to House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
After the caucus meeting, Wilson told reporters the majority decided after 90 minutes of debate to “not move forward with either a recall provision or (censuring).” Instead, Wilson said legislators will back a citation floated by Senate President Stuart Adams last week thanking Trump “for all the great things he’s done for the state of Utah.”
“Many people disagree with the conclusion Sen. Romney came to, and I think what we can kind of conclude from this conversation is we’re going to agree to disagree,” Wilson said. “We understand the thoughtful process Sen. Romney went through. Many people disagree with it, and we think it’s probably time to move on.”
Adams, R-Layton, said it’s true that’s all that’s left on the table.
“That’s where we’re at,” Adams said, adding the advantage of scrapping all but the citation is “simply, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all. So we’re looking for things that are positive and this citation is positive.”
The decision comes after KSL reported last week there was likely trouble ahead for those bills.
Wilson said Tuesday’s House GOP debate centered on how members of Congress are elected to go to Washington and do “the heavy lifting” and how legislators respect that process, as well as “how do we protect some of the culture of Washington, D.C., from coming back to Utah and affecting our ability to do our work for the state of Utah.”
The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah criticized Wilson and Adams Tuesday, saying in a news release the citation honoring Trump shows “state leaders are afraid of a bully.”
“Following Sen. Romney’s courageous vote, Speaker Wilson and Senate President Adams are deeply fearful that President Trump will retaliate against the entire state of Utah out of petty vindictiveness,” said Chase Thomas, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah. “While the citation itself reflects the majority leaderships’ support for the president, the timing reveals just how terrified they are of him as well. This desperate attempt to mitigate the fallout from Sen. Romney’s vote is not normal or acceptable behavior.
“History will remember the courage of Sen. Romney in honoring his sacred constitutional oath,” Thomas added. “And it will also remember the cowardice of Utah lawmakers who threw him under a bus to side with a bully instead.”
But Wilson told reporters he isn’t concerned about any retaliation from Trump, saying he believes the president realizes “he’s got support here.”
Tuesday’s decision comes after a tidal wave of reaction to Romney’s vote last week — some Utahns outraged, some praising Romney for his courage. Utah House lawmakers scrambled to act after they said hundreds of constituents flooded their voicemails and inboxes.
Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, opened a bill file to censure Romney. Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, had already filed a bill to allow Utah voters to recall a sitting U.S. senator — a bill that he said was never meant to target Romney, but one that caught a tidal wave of interest after Romney’s vote to convict.
Adams and Wilson, however, have expressed concerns with the recall bill and whether it would be unconstitutional.
Gov. Gary Herbert also said he wouldn’t support a censure of Romney, saying the senator voted “in accordance with his conscience.”
We believe there are singular and great things that the president has done for Utah we’d like to be able to focus on. And it also takes less resources of our attorneys and our staff and allows us to focus on Utah business a little bit quicker.
–House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville
Last week, Wilson opened a bill file for a joint resolution to express Utah’s official support for Trump, but Adams wasn’t supportive, partial to instead reading a citation in support for Trump so the Legislature could move beyond the drama around Romney and focus instead on Utah business.
A citation would not require a hearing or a vote.
Asked if there were concerns of a debate unfolding on House or Senate floors about the president if the Legislature moved forward with a joint resolution as opposed to a citation — leaving open time for perhaps Democrats to voice opposition to Trump, Wilson said that was part of their decision.
“We believe there are singular and great things that the president has done for Utah we’d like to be able to focus on,” Wilson said. “And it also takes less resources of our attorneys and our staff and allows us to focus on Utah business a little bit quicker.”
Wilson said the citation will be coming “sometime soon,” but didn’t say exactly when.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche