A state lawmaker wants Utahns to be able to recall their U.S. senators if enough want to do so.
Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, says he is not eyeing U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, nor Romney’s recent maverick statements concerning the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate of President Donald Trump.
Although Quinn says he can see how some are suspicious of his intents.
“If you know anything about the drafting process (of bills in the Legislature), you know this has been in the works for a long time, long before” Romney’s recent statements on hearing witnesses in the Trump trial.
However, the bill did drop Wednesday afternoon and on Friday Senate leaders are scheduling a vote on whether to admit new witnesses in the trial, or just move to a vote to acquit or find Trump guilty.
Romney is one of three GOP senators who say they may well like to hear from witnesses, especially former National Security Advisor John Bolton — whose leaked book manuscript as reported in media confirms the Democrats’ claims that Trump withheld military aid to the Ukraine in return for a foreign investigation of a Democratic presidential opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
It will take four GOP senators to vote with Democrats to hear Bolton or other witnesses.
In any case, it is generally accepted that only the U.S. Senate can remove a member.
But Quinn says several states have U.S. Senate recall provisions on their books, even if the measures have not been used.
Quinn said during some of his own and other rural lawmakers’ town hall meetings over the last year, a number of constituents asked why there is no recall of U.S. senators, especially in the light of recent reconsiderations of repealing the 17th Amendment — which set up popular elections for U.S. Senate members.
“If I had a dollar for everyone who asked me today (after the bill was made public) if this was about” Sen. Romney, “I would have $20,” said Quinn.
But it is not, Quinn said.
“The only office, for federal or state or even local offices, that is six years is the U.S. Senate. That is a long time before constituents can speak” on whether they want to keep the person in office or remove him, said Quinn.
“I think it is worthwhile to have this discussion.”
“The people should be able to ask” through a recall “whether the person elected (to the Senate) still stands for what the voters believed they did.”
A decade ago, a Utah state senator introduced a bill aimed at what he then termed “a soft repeal” of the 17th Amendment.
The idea was to adopt a law that would require Utah’s two senators to report to the state Legislature every year what they had done to represent the State of Utah — reflected in various resolutions passed by the Legislature as guidance to the U.S. senators.
That bill went nowhere.
Quinn’s bill, HB217, has a very high bar — a recall election would only take place if 25 percent of those who voted in the last general election sign a petition of recall.
Citizen initiative petitions and referendums have much lower thresholds.
Is a Utah recall law for U.S. senators constitutional?
“I have no idea,” said Quinn. “I do know several other states have these laws.”
But while various citizens angry with U.S. senators have been active on Utah social media sites, most likely it is unconstitutional to attempt a recall, since the Constitution says both the U.S. House and Senate are the ultimate deciders on who can be a member or not, regardless of popular votes.