District 54 Rep. Tim Quinn is sponsoring House Bill 217, which amends state election code to allow for the recall of a sitting United States senator. Quinn swears it has nothing to do with one of Utah’s current U.S. senators, Mitt Romney, who has made news recently as one of two Republican senators to vote for impeachment witnesses. Quinn says he’s fielded hundreds of emails and calls since the bill was made public Wednesday, but with everything that goes into drafting legislation, Quinn says the timing is just a coincidence.
“If you look at the question or the narrative that people have made, that is this about impeachment," Quinn said, "impeachment started in the Senate, and Sen. Romney started making his comments long after this bill file.”
Quinn says the bill stems from constituents’ concerns with the 17th amendment, which established the six-year term for U.S. senators. He says other elected officials must report back to the electorate within two to four years, and six years is too long for senators to face their constituents.
“They can get off the rails," Quinn said. "They can campaign one way and vote another, which is fine—we all have that prerogative—but all of us have to report back to our electorate sooner than six years. This is just a way to say, hey, there's little checks and balance in there to say if you're doing something that's incredibly egregious to the people who sent you there, this is an opportunity for a recall.”
In the recall process Quinn is proposing, five sponsors would submit a recall application to the lieutenant governor. Then, the petition would require signatures from 25% of active voters across the state—Utahns who voted in the last two elections. If verified, the lieutenant governor would call for a recall election—a simple question to voters of should the senator be retained or removed. A senator could not be subject to recall if it’s the first or last year of their term.
Many states have recall provisions for state offices, such as governor, attorney general or state representatives. However, it’s questionable whether Quinn’s bill is constitutional. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t provide for the recall of federally elected officials. Quinn says it’s his job to make laws, and if anyone wants to challenge it, they can take it to the courts.
“It's our job to legislate," Quinn said. "The courts, the judicial branch, they have their job. I don't want them creating laws from the bench. I want them to interpret the laws that we create, so I wouldn't want to get into their lane and say, oh, this is constitutional or this isn't constitutional. We do our job, and then if someone wants to challenge it in court, then the courts will do their job and determine whether it's constitutional or not.”
Quinn anticipates the bill will be heard late next week, at the earliest.