SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s GOP legislative leaders released a statement Thursday expressing support of President Donald Trump in wake of Sen. Mitt Romney’s lone Republican vote to convict the president for abuse of power.
The citation, issued jointly by House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, was released in the middle of Utah’s 45-day legislative session, supported by the majority leadership in place of bills that would have censured or provided a pathway to recall Romney.
The citation states the U.S. economy has “grown steadily” under Trump’s administration, and Utah’s economy “has greatly benefited from the Trump administration’s economic policies resulting in a 3.1% increase in employment last year, and the third-strongest growth in personal income, up from 6% from the third quarter of 2018.”
It also lauds Trump’s federal tax package, Trump’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act and criminal justice reform bill, his visit to Utah to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and the president’s “tenacious” appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal judges “whose judicial philosophy is consistent with Utah values.”
“Now therefore be it resolved the Utah State Legislature expresses appreciation and gratitude for President Trump’s many accomplishments during his first term as President of the United States,” the citation states. “As elected representatives of Utah’s citizens, we commend the President for his accomplishments.”
The citation also calls upon Congress to “do what state legislatures across the country are doing and get back to work for the American people.”
Adams, R-Layton, in an interview with reporters later Thursday, praised Trump for identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“The fact that every president probably ever since I was born has promised to make that move and none of them have, and the security advisers, very hard soldiers and professionals, as he was telling this story they had tears streaming down their eyes of gratitude for a president who wasn’t necessarily political correct, but did the right thing and moved that embassy.”
Adams also lauded Trump for his federal tax policy.
The citation comes after Romney’s vote during the impeachment trial sent shockwaves across Utah, leaving some Utahns outraged and others commending him for his courage. Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. Romney said he voted his voted his conscience and in concert with his religious beliefs.
Most Utahns supported Romney’s decision. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll taken earlier this month found that 49% of Utah voters were pleased with his decision while 40% were unhappy with it.
A bill that a Utah lawmaker filed the week before the impeachment vote to allow a recall election for U.S. senator caught a tidal wave of interest after Romney’s vote, and another lawmaker sought to censure Romney.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he didn’t support a censure, while Utah’s legislative leaders expressed concerns about whether the recall bill would have been unconstitutional. Still, lawmakers wanted to signal Utah’s support for Trump, so they ultimately decided to move forward instead with a citation to express the state’s support for the president, avoiding any debate or public hearings on the topic.
Adams told reporters Thursday the citation wouldn’t be read publicly, aiming to keep “civility” in Utah.
Later Thursday, Utah House Democrats issued a statement condemning the citation.
“The citation expresses an opinion that the body of the Legislature did not discuss nor vote on,” the statement read. “Sending such a divisive message at this time for a president who has record low approval numbers for a Republican in Utah is not what we were elected to do.”
House Democrats said the citation “fails to mention” the Trump administration’s “many problematic issues, policies and attitudes that have hurt Utahns, particularly around issues dealing with air quality, refugees, immigrants, education, disregarding the protection of our public lands, and growing our national deficit.”
The president’s efforts to roll back federal regulations on vehicle emission standards is a threat to “worsen our air quality for decades,” the group noted. They said Trump’s federal plan to reduce refugees, maintain travel bans targeting Muslims and Africans and leave “millions of immigrants in limbo on our southern border” is “contrary” to Utah’s commitment to refugees and the Utah Compact.
House Democrats also said Trump’s rollback of public land protection has been “for the benefit of corporations seeking unfettered mining and extraction.” Additionally, they said federal tax cuts have “worsened our country’s deficit” which is exceeding $1 trillion, “which is not consistent with the values and priorities of Utahns.”
Additionally, House Democrats said legislative citations are supposed to be reserved for Utah citizens.
“Ignoring processes, established policies, and the rule of law may be the norm for Donald Trump,” they said. “But we cannot afford to have us adopt those standards in the state legislature. That is not in alignment with Utah values. “
Chase Thomas, executive director of the left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Utah, also issued a statement Thursday criticizing the citation in support of Trump, saying Wilson and Adams are “deeply fearful that Trump will retaliate against the entire state of Utah out of petty vindictiveness.”
“This desperate attempt to mitigate the fallout from Sen. Romney’s vote is not normal or acceptable behavior,” Thomas said. “Utahns will remember the courage of Sen. Romney in honoring his sacred constitutional oath. And it will also remember the cowardice of the lawmakers who threw him under a bus to side with a bully instead.”
In reference to the citation’s paragraph calling on Congress to get back to the work of the people, Thomas sought to “remind” Utah GOP leadership “that a historic number of bills are sitting on the desk” of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“If they are concerned with the business of the people being attended to in Congress,” Thomas said, “we recommend they pick up a phone, call their colleague in Washington, and tell him to get to it.”
Contributing: Sahalie Donaldson