Dozens of people had a chance to listen and talk to Sen. Mitt Romney Aug. 29, in Richfield.
“I am cognizant that you’re my boss,” Romney said. He said the point of the meeting was to hear people’s concerns and questions.
Romney started out the meeting by discussing the experience of being a senator.
“It’s a little different than I expected,” Romney said. He said he went into office expecting people to be angry and ill-disposed.
“Really, everyone is very friendly,” Romney said. He said early in his time in the Senate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, stopped him in the street. He said she was very welcoming to him, which turned out to be representative of how most people in the Senate are.
“People are really, really friendly,” Romney said. “That changes when the cameras turn on. Maybe the only exception is Bernie [Sanders]. He’s kind of angry … of course he’s busy and running for president so maybe that accounts for it.”
Another thing Romney said he has learned about the Senate is that nothing will get done without Republicans and Democrats both agreeing. While the U.S. House of Representatives may pass hundreds of bills in a session due to simple majority rule, the senate may pass five.
Romney said the senate is where things are allowed to cool down. Part of that is because the senate has a rule that requires 60 votes. The Republicans currently hold 53 senate seats, which means seven Democrats have to believe that it is a win, Romney said.
“It’s probably a good thing we have the process we have,” Romney said. He said without the tempering that occurs in the senate, tax rates would bounce up and down with election cycles and other laws would be changed with regularity, causing instability in financial markets and society in general.
Romney was asked why he considers himself a “renegade Republican.” He said this is primarily because he is concerned with the U.S. deficit level.
“You know how politicians are, it’s just easier to kick it down the road,” Romney said. He said the government brings in approximately $3 trillion a year in tax revenue, but spends $4 trillion. To make up the difference, the U.S. borrows from foreign lenders, which could be a problem moving forward.
“We spent $300 billion on interest on the debt,” Romney said. He said he, Sen. Mike Lee and a few others are working to find solutions to the debt issue, but it will take time and more support from other politicians.
Romney was also asked if he would support getting rid of the Federal Reserve.
“Neither party has in interest in abolishing the Federal Reserve,” Romney said. He said he is against Congress managing the Federal Reserve, and that all developed countries in the world have a central bank.
“We have a higher standard of living than any other people in the world,” Romney said. “I, for one, don’t want to say, ‘let’s blow all this up and try something that hasn’t been tried.”
Romney also said he would prefer to see school issues handled at the local level. He said local leaders are better equipped to make decisions when it comes to how to deal with education.
An issue of local importance — coal — was one Romney said he has hope for.
In a meeting with Bill Gates, Romney said he learned that the cost of removing a ton of CO2 out of the emissions has gone from $500 a ton to $100 a ton.
“We keep on getting the cost down,” Romney said. He said he would like to see substantially more money invested in removing CO2 out of emissions.
“Let’s keep pushing that technology that removes the CO2 from the emissions of coal power plants,” Romney said.
“I believe we’re getting warmer, and I believe humans are a big cause.”
However, Romney said the solution isn’t to stifle the U.S. economy by eliminating fossil fuels, but rather to continue to innovate technology that makes emissions cleaner. He said the U.S. can lead the world in developing and perfecting emission cleaning technology, and then push it out into the world where it can have a much bigger effect.
“We are only 13 percent,” Romney said. He said other countries, like China, India and Brazil are responsible for the growth in CO2 emissions.
“If the United States had no energy and no cars, the temperature would still be going up,” Romney said.
Romney was also asked how he would like to see how the Veteran’s Administration could be improved to better help address the needs of veterans.
“Our VA is not as effective as it should be,” Romney said.
He said he’d prefer to see veterans have a card that allows them to seek medical and mental treatment either from a VA or a private provider. He said veterans living in outlying areas, like Richfield or Vernal, may have a harder time traveling to the VA for treatment and more flexibility would help.
Healthcare has two primary issues — how to get insurance to those who don’t have it, and how to reduce the cost people have to pay for it.
“We’re miles apart,” Romney said on the insurance issue. However, he said the effort to reduce the cost of healthcare is something that both sides of the aisle support.
Part of the solution is a change that will allow prescription drugs to be priced on an international basis — also allowing the import of drugs from Canada.
“I think we’ll make some progress on that before 2020,” Romney said.
Another thing that is being done is the elimination of surprise billings. These occur when someone has to have some type of healthcare, and one of the specialists needed isn’t in the patient’s insurance network. The result is people being billed tens of thousands of dollars for services they thought were covered by their insurance.
Public lands remain among the top issues facing Utah. Romney said the government is now requiring law firms who sue over federal lands issues to report how much money they make doing so.
Romney said he is also working on bills related to Hill Air Force Base, which is slated to be the center for an upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“There are 400 minutemen missiles in the ground in the American west,” Romney said.
He said the missiles are out of date and need to upgraded and replaced, and that Hill will be where a lot of that work is completed.
“They need to be re-engineered and replaced,” Romney said.