Mitt Romney in Joe Biden’s Cabinet? Utah senator quashes that rumor.

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a news conference on Oct. 15, 2020 near Neffs Canyon. He quashed rumors Tuesday that he is under consideration for a position in President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet.

Rumors swirled that Sen. Mitt Romney is being considered for Joe Biden’s Cabinet — which is perhaps not too surprising since he is among few GOP leaders who acknowledge Biden as president-elect, and he scolded President Donald Trump for saying the election is being stolen.

Romney tried to quash such talk Tuesday in a phone call to Utah news reporters.

When asked if Biden has approached him for his Cabinet, Romney said, “I have not been approached, nor will I be approached. And I’m not going to be part of the Biden administration.”

He said that as far as he can tell, rumors spread when a Buffalo, N.Y., newspaper reported that he was under consideration as Biden’s secretary of health and human services.

“I have no idea who made that story up,” Romney said. “I commented at the time: I’ve not been approached by the Biden team. I will not be approached by the Biden team. And I would never take a job where I had to follow in the footsteps of Michael Leavitt,” the former Utah governor who served as HHS secretary.

“Mike Leavitt was the best HHS secretary this country has ever had, and I would never follow him because I could never keep up,” Romney said. “I’ll be serving this [Senate] term and who knows, maybe even another one representing our great state.”

Some had also speculated that Biden might tap Romney as his secretary of state.

Amid wide-ranging questions from reporters, Romney again said he sees no way Trump can win — and that suggesting fraud without proof hurts democracy. He said he doesn’t feel that making such criticism has hurt him politically and reported that some GOP colleagues praised him for his measured tone.

Romney also said that without COVID-19, he believes Trump would have been reelected. And he said the current situation — where Democrats believe they have won the presidency and still have a shot at winning the Senate — may help soon pass a limited, compromise pandemic relief bill without the big payments to individuals seen previously.

When asked what he thinks about many GOP leaders, including Trump, still saying he will win, Romney said, “Maybe they may have information I don’t have” — but he doubts any significant fraud exists that could overcome results in any state.

He said, as others jokingly told him, “If the Democratic Party was able to carry out a massive national voter fraud effort, why, that would have been the most effective covert operation in world history.”

Romney also said again that unsubstantiated claims of fraud hurt democracy. “Every nation in the world is looking at America and watching this election and seeing how we respond. And I think it’s important that we show confidence in our institutions, our ability to investigate cases, and to take cases to the courts.”

When asked if he is paying a price politically for recognizing Biden as president-elect while many other Republicans are not, Romney said, “I received some calls and texts after my appearance on the Sunday shows that complimented my relatively measured tone” from colleagues.

Romney said the one thing that likely cost Trump this election was COVID-19. “Had we not had COVID-19 at all, I think it would have been likely that the president would have been reelected.”

Under Biden, Romney said the biggest change in the battle against the virus is that he will “probably make a major effort to have people wear masks.”

Romney also lamented, “There are some people who think that wearing a mask is somehow not demonstrating your commitment to conservatism. I disagree. I want to live longer. And I think my chances of living longer are better with people wearing masks.”

After meeting with the Senate GOP caucus Tuesday, Romney was optimistic that a long-stalemated pandemic relief may soon pass — but will be a smaller, more targeted version than seen in the past.

He says that will likely not include large payments to individuals seen — and promoted by him — earlier.

“At the beginning of this crisis, I wanted folks to be reimbursed for having bought additional groceries and other supplies to weather the storm. But at this stage, 92% or 93% of Americans are back to work,” he said. “Sending out checks to all of those individuals strikes me, again, as an unnecessary burden of borrowing.”

He said he does favor giving extra money to the unemployed and perhaps targeted extra payments to parents of children to provide “additional funding for remote learning at home, additional funding for child care where that might be needed.”

He also foresees extra funding for small businesses, airlines, schools and hospitals. He said Republicans would likely block any additional emergency funding for states and other governments, which Democrats have pushed.

“The argument that we’re making to our Democrat colleagues is, look, you’re probably going to get a new president. You may or may not get the majority in the Senate,” he said. “Why don’t you take the money we’re proposing now, the $500 billion or whatever the number is. And then if you get leadership down the road, you can pass more.”