LOGAN – To some Cache Valley legislators, the name of Utah’s junior senator in Washington, D.C. is Mudd, not Mitt.
“A lot of people aren’t happy with (U.S. Sen.) Mitt Romney, especially after his vote during President Trump’s second impeachment,” said Rep. Joel Ferry, R-District 1, during a virtual town hall Thursday hosted by the Cache County Republican Party.
“But there are some Utahns who probably agree with what he is doing,” Ferry acknowledged. “I don’t happen to be one of them.”
“I’ve had the same concern,” admitted freshman Rep. Mike Petersen, R-District 3. “I worry that Sen. Romney clearly doesn’t represent the views of all Utahns.
“As individuals, it’s incumbent on each of us, if we feel a certain way (about Sen. Romney), to voice our displeasure or satisfaction. I don’t think that’s going to happen as a state, so it will be up to us as individuals.”
State officials have definitely been more circumspect than Cache Valley lawmakers in remarks about Romney’s recent “votes of conscience” against Republican interests in Washington.
After casting his vote to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial on Feb. 13, senior Utah Sen. Mike Lee tactfully defended his colleague’s vote of guilty by saying that there was room for “diversity of opinion” in the Utah GOP.
The state GOP also attempted to gloss over its senator’s diverging impeachment votes by echoing Lee’s refrain, saying that “diversity of thought” is beneficial to the political process.
Romney made history by becoming the first U.S. senator in history to vote to convict a president from his own political party during Trump’s first impeachment trial in February 2020.
In the even-more controversial second impeachment trial, Romney joined six other Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the crowd that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In a statement released by his office after the second impeachment trial, Romney accused his former rival in the 2016 presidential campaign of attempting to corrupt the 2020 general election results, inciting insurrection against Congress and endangering the lives of senior elected officials.
Despite social media rumors of recall petitions, censure efforts and calls for Romney’s resignation, state Rep. Dan Johnson, R-District 4, said that Utahns’ actually have limited options to punish their junior senator.
“At state level, we don’t have a recall law for the office of U.S. Senator,” Johnson explained. “So we’d have to pass a law in the Legislature to be able to do that.
“There was a bill that was run by former state Rep. Tim Quinn last year for that purpose, giving the state authority to recall a senator. There are people who feel really, really strongly about that (option). So, I was just curious what a bill to do that would look like.”
During the 2020 general session of the Legislature, Quinn denied that HB 217 was a reaction to Romney’s earlier vote in the first Trump impeachment. The proposal by the former District 54 representative was not enacted by the Legislature.
At the federal level, the Constitution says that the only options to remove a sitting senator from office are through impeachment or expulsion.
To impeach a senator, the U.S. House must pass articles of impeachment and two-thirds of the Senate’s members must vote to convict. The last time that a U.S. senator was impeached was in 1799, on a charge of treason.
Expulsion of a senator from office is more common, having been imposed 15 times since 1789, mostly for criminal offenses. Like impeachment, expulsion of a senator requires a two-thirds vote of his or her colleagues.
Given the fact that Democrats now hold majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, there is no chance that Romney could face either impeachment or expulsion proceeding over his votes against Trump.
For better or worst, Ferry said, Romney will undoubtedly remain in office until he faces reelection in about three and one-half years.
“If enough Utahns don’t agree with his actions then,” Ferry added, “Sen. Romney should be voted out of office.”
In the meantime, Utahns who are upset over Romney’s actions are left with only the traditional option of reaching out to his office.
“Anyone can write a letter and share their displeasure,” Johnson emphasized. “I believe that people’s voices really matter. Sen. Romney reads his e-mails. He has staffers who read letters…so I think you just have to reach out to him.”