Meanwhile, what’s happening in Washington?

March 17th, 2017|Issue Update|0 Comments

After a roaring State Legislative Session, it’s time to check in with our Utah delegation in Washington D.C.

Written by Erika Palsson, Action Utah Captain

In spite of the volume and pace of news coverage since November’s election, the 115th Congress has yet to pass much significant legislation. The resolution to repeal the Stream Protection Rule has upset environmentalists and created some controversy, but most of the energy of this Republican-led legislature has been focused on a plan to “Repeal and Replace” the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Paul Ryan introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA) this past week, and it was voted through two House Committees along party lines. However, it has come under heavy criticism from politicians, health care experts, economists, and nonprofit groups from both sides of the political spectrum. Senator Mike Lee has expressed his disappointment with the bill, claiming that it is too similar to Obamacare, while Senator Orrin Hatch has offered mild support for the legislation. Lee’s potential vote against the bill could be detrimental to its success (if it reaches the Senate, which remains to be seen).

Utah’s congressional delegation continues to lobby for the removal of the Bears Ears National Monument designation, with Representative Jason Chaffetz recently asking a House Appropriations Subcommittee to withhold funding. Debate over public lands policies in Utah has gained national attention, with the recent loss of the Outdoor Retailer convention, and companies such as Patagonia campaigning to save Bears Ears. House Resolution 622, the “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act” sponsored by Chaffetz and co-sponsored by Representatives Mia Love and Chris Stewart, was referred to the House committees on Natural Resources and Agriculture, and is pending further action.

As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Chaffetz has not done much to investigate Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest or violations of the emoluments clause, though he did recently issue a letter warning the President not to delete his tweets. Chaffetz has made headlines almost daily for comments that have angered or provoked Americans across the country. See here, here, and here. These missteps by Chaffetz have bolstered the campaigns of Utahns looking to challenge for his district seat in 2018, including Democrat Kathryn Allen and Republican Damian Kidd.

Senator Orrin Hatch has suggested he’ll run for reelection in 2018, though it doesn’t appear confirmed just yet.

Finally, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is tracking the votes of all current members of congress with respect to how they support President Trump’s agenda. All six Utah legislators currently have a score of 100% alignment with Trump, including the votes by Senators Lee and Hatch in favor of every cabinet nominee thus far. Their collective responses to divisive actions by the President, including two iterations of a travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries, have been largely supportive. Both Chaffetz and Hatch indicated they approve of the revised executive order, issued last week.

Erika Palsson is a relative newcomer to Utah. After growing up in California and spending time in New York and Arizona, she moved to Salt Lake City in 2014. She holds a B.A. in Dance and an M.F.A. in English from the University of California at Irvine, and currently works as the Executive Assistant to the Head of School at Rowland Hall.

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