It was a sign, as President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, that democracy has prevailed: Utah’s all-Republican congressional delegation was quick to praise the new Democratic president on Wednesday and wish him well.
Even freshman Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who had described himself as a warrior for former President Donald Trump and who voted against his second impeachment and for an effort to overturn the Electoral College vote, praised the peaceful transition of leaders.
“I’m honored to attend the 59th Presidential Inauguration and join the country in celebrating a peaceful transition of power that has served as a cornerstone of American democracy for over 200 years,” Owens tweeted.
Owens also joined in a letter signed by 17 House Republicans pledging to Biden “to rise above the partisan fray and work towards meaningful change.”
Rep. Chris Stewart — who like Owens also voted against impeachment and to overturn the electoral vote — tweeted, “It would be good for the country if everyone toned down their rhetoric and looked for something to agree on and something to embrace in a positive fashion instead of what we have seen in the last year and especially since the election.”
Stewart missed attending the swearing-in. As he was about to fly to Washington when he experienced what he thought were symptoms of COVID-19 — so he stayed home in Utah. He has since tested negative, so he plans to fly to Washington for legislative business.
“Rep. Stewart had every intention of attending President-elect Biden’s inauguration as he wished to show unity as we peacefully transition power,” said his spokesperson Madison Shupe. “Mr. Stewart wishes the new Administration well as they begin their service to our great nation.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who campaigned for Trump and even compared him to Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni, also said attending the swearing-in was an honor.
“It was an honor to witness President Biden swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States today,” Lee said. “We may not agree on everything, but I know we share common ground on some key issues like criminal justice reform and tax relief for working families. I hope we can turn these agreements into real bipartisan legislative success.”
Sen. Mitt Romney said, ““President Biden’s speech was very strong and very much needed. We as a nation can come together if we are told the truth and if we have leaders who stand for enduring American principles. It is my hope that the president will call upon our better angels to bring us together, and that we as a people will rise to the occasion as well.”
Rep. John Curtis also tweeted, “Although I may have philosophical differences with the President, I have tremendous respect for the Office. My attendance should stand as my commitment to wake up every morning and look in the mirror as I ask myself if I’m an agent for hate and darkness or for love and light.”
Rep. Blake Moore tweeted, “It was an honor to witness the inauguration today and support a peaceful transfer of power. I look forward to working with this administration to reach America’s common goals.”
Congratulations to President Joe Biden & Vice President Kamala Harris! It was an honor to witness the inauguration today and support a peaceful transfer of power. I look forward to working with this administration to reach America’s common goals.
Some former members of Congress from Utah also wished the new president well.
Former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — the longest serving Republican senator ever — who often tussled with Biden when one or the other led the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised him.
“I wanted to send my sincere congratulations to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Having had the opportunity to serve with both of them in the Senate, I saw up close the love they have for our country and the American people,” Hatch said in a statement.
“I am confident that the president will serve our nation now just as he has served it over more many decades in elected office — with drive, dedication, and a heart full of optimism. His success will be America’s success, which is why I wish him the very best.”
Former Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, tweeted a photo of himself at the swearing-in, and said, “It’s a beautiful new day. Today, we are not Republicans or Democrats. Today, we are Americans.”
“I was touched by Biden’s words that we never let disagreement amount to disunion. I hope we can come together as Americans and let democracy prevail. That’s what I hope to see,” said McAdams.
- Tribune reporter Bryan Schott contributed to this report.