Visiting state lawmakers in Utah Thursday, Sen. Mitt Romney decried the lack of productivity in Washington, D.C., while also defending President Joe Biden against claims he is not mentally fit for office and weighing in on the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Armed with a series of giant whiteboards, Romney gave state lawmakers an update on where things stand in the nation’s capital.

His prognosis?

“We’re on track to become the least productive Congress in history,” he told Utah’s Senate Democratic minority caucus.

Beset by divisions — both between the U.S. House and Senate and among Republicans in the House — the 118th Congress has not passed much legislation, much to Romney’s chagrin.

Romney said politics in the nation’s capital “has gone from the art of the possible to the art of the impossible,” with members of Congress introducing legislation “which can’t possibly become law” but will satisfy the base of their political party.

The Senate Democrats burst into applause for Romney when he pointed out he was the only member of the Utah delegation in Congress to vote for the massive infrastructure bill that he helped negotiate with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Romney: It’s ‘Unlikely’ Congress will get anything done on the border

When asked whether Romney saw any hope of Congress working with the White House to deal with the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico, Romney was similarly pessimistic.

“Very unlikely. Very, very unlikely. There was an opportunity for the first time in 30, 35 years, to actually get a reasonable border provision done. The Republicans decided not to proceed on that,” Romney said, adding he believes President Joe Biden “has a lot of power himself to solve part of the challenge.”

There is also “some possibility” the GOP-controlled U.S. House could add some border provisions to the funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan just passed by the Senate, he said, questioning whether that would be seen as too “one-sided” to get through the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority. 

Romney said he believes at some point, Biden will have to declare an emergency and “cut off the flow” of migrants crossing the border illegally.

“When you have cities like Chicago and New York, Democratic bastions, saying we’re being overrun by immigrants, when you have asylum seekers beating up police in New York, it’s like OK, this has gone too far,” Romney said. “If President (Joe) Biden loses, this will be the reason he lost.”

Romney suggests Biden is fit for office

Romney defended Biden when asked about the recently released report by Department of Justice special counsel Robert K. Hur, that said Biden would not face charges over his handling of classified documents, but questioned Biden’s memory and mental acuity.

“I’m 76. Believe it or not, when you get older, your memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Dates are not as familiar. You tend to sometimes mess up words. I would note that that’s been the case with President Biden, and frankly President Trump, for some time — and in my case, most of my life,” said Romney. “I’ve negotiated with President Biden. He’s an older guy, but I believe he is intellectually competent. That’s not the worry. The worry for me with President Biden is I disagree with him on the border and think he’s spending too much money.”

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Will Romney vote to impeach Mayorkas?

Now that the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to impeach Mayorkas, the matter moves to the Senate, where senators will hold a trial and decide whether to convict the Homeland Security secretary and remove him from office.

When asked if he’d taken a position on whether to vote to convict Mayorkas, Romney said as a Senate juror he would “listen to the arguments and make an informed judgment.”

But, he said, “I haven’t seen anything so far that suggests that he met the standard of a high crime or misdemeanor. Now that doesn’t mean he’s done a good job. I think our border is a mess. But I blame the president, and the people the president has appointed are people who are following the president’s policies.”

“We’ll see if Secretary Mayorkas has gone beyond the president’s policies. If so, that would justify a careful look,” he added.

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, meets with Senate Democrats during their caucus meeting at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Will Romney endorse one of the Republicans running to replace him?

When asked by House Democrats if he would endorse one of the Republicans running to replace him, he said, jokingly, “Well, I’ve got a secret candidate.”

“I doubt I’ll endorse, although I may,” he said. “I’m not going to commit that I’m not going to endorse.”

He said they were “good people” running, naming former Utah state House Speaker Brad Wilson and current U.S. Rep. John Curtis. He said he didn’t know Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs or Brent Hatch, son of the late Sen. Orrin Hatch, as well.

“It’s kind of hard to predict what’s going to happen in the Senate race, but I hope the people of Utah, myself included are able to be represented by a person who wants to go there to get stuff done and not just to make noise,” he said.

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Anniversary of Trump impeachment vote

Romney said he has no regrets over voting to impeach former President Donald Trump three years ago.

“I’m convinced that I took the right vote and made the right decision in that regard,” he said. “Other people followed their conscience. I don’t question their decision to vote to acquit. But I don’t question my own decision to say that he was guilty.”

“For me, the biggest issue was that while the U.S. Capitol was under attack, and he was watching TV and seeing his own vice president under threat, he took no action. He has a constitutional duty to protect the Constitution of the United States, and not stepping in to protect his vice president and the seat of government at the time we were having a peaceful transition of power was, in my view, a high crime and misdemeanor.”