Former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the June 26 Republican primary in a race for the seat emptied by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Romney won a landslide victory over Michael Kennedy, a member of the Utah House of Representatives as well as a physician and an attorney.
Romney positioned himself as a moderate supporter of President Donald Trump, standing with the president on most issues, but phrasing his preferences in softer and, at times, more ambiguous tones.
Romney, 71, initially opposed Trump’s run for the presidency but has been more friendly since the election. He was also considered by Trump for the position of state secretary.
“Big and conclusive win by Mitt Romney. Congratulations! I look forward to working together – there is so much good to do. A great and loving family will be coming to D.C.,” Trump wrote in a tweet late on June 26.
Big and conclusive win by Mitt Romney. Congratulations! I look forward to working together – there is so much good to do. A great and loving family will be coming to D.C.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018
Romney faced off with Kennedy in a debate on May 29. He said his experience campaigning with dozens of senators will make him a better advocate for his constituents in Washington and allow Utah to “punch above its weight.”
On health care, Romney said he’d like the decision power returned to the states, taking a jab at the centralizing effect of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which he wants repealed. When it comes to managing health care prices, he’d like patients to be able to see what each procedure costs and its quality and success rate.
“Those two pieces of information will get health care to start working like a market,” he said.
On trade, Romney spoke in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States. Trump withdrew from the TPP because he considered the deal not good enough for the United States, and also because of an aversion to multilateral agreements, which are cumbersome to change.
Romney also voiced support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, hesitant to endanger relations with top trading partners. Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA to get a better deal for America and said he’s willing to withdraw if a new deal can’t be reached. Romney acknowledged that Mexico’s auto industry is currently getting too good a deal from the United States and that it needs to be “readdressed.”
Romney lauded Trump’s handling of China, saying the communist state breaks trade rules and steals U.S. trade secrets. He opposed broad tariffs but supported Trump’s tariffs on specific products. “Specifically going after the bad actors, that makes sense,” he said.
On gun rights, Romney said he doesn’t want new federal gun legislation, except to enhance background checks for gun purchases (an idea Trump expressed some support for) and to ban bump stocks—devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to shoot nearly as fast as automatic ones. The National Rifle Association agreed to back regulation of bump stocks after the devices were discovered following the Oct. 1 Las Vegas mass shooting.
When it comes to preventing school shootings, Romney wants armed people in or near schools, limited access points to school buildings, metal detectors “in certain circumstances,” and a system of anonymous reporting and intervention teams to handle potentially dangerous people. By saying armed “people,” Romney seemed to have left room to support Trump’s suggestion to train and arm select teachers.
On immigration, Romney said he wants a “barrier” along the southern border, a rollout of e-Verify (electronic immigration status check for employees), and rules that allow illegal immigrants brought into the country as children to stay but not gain a pathway to citizenship unless they qualify for it under the same rules as legal immigrants.
Romney wants merit-based legal immigration, “giving applicants credit for such things as English fluency, having a trade or technical skill, personal savings, and advanced degrees,” his website states. He supports ending chain migration, in which one person with legal status can assure legal status for not only close but also more distant relatives. He is also for scrapping the visa lottery, which hands out green cards to randomly selected applicants from countries with low migrant flow to the United States.
On the budget, under which continuous deficits have ballooned the national debt to $21 trillion, Romney suggested raising the retirement age by one to two years for people under 55, and slower benefit growth for people with higher incomes and mentioned shifting to states the responsibility for funding of some discretionary programs.
He said he wouldn’t vote for an omnibus funding bill, which aggregates federal appropriations into one giant package, and said he wouldn’t vote for bills busting spending caps. He would try to work with other senators to make that position clear months in advance so as to prevent a government shutdown.
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