Romney says the White House should stop stonewalling on debt limit negotiations

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also spoke on ethical scandals of the Supreme Court and whether he’ll run again in 2024.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mitt Romney talks with reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Education Center, May 5, 2023.

Sen. Mitt Romney says the blame for the current impasse over raising the nation’s debt limit falls squarely on the White House.

For the Biden administration to repeatedly warn about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, coupled with its refusal to negotiate possible spending cuts, Romney said was extremely frustrating.

“When one party controls the House and the other controls the White House, they have to work together and meet someplace in the middle. For the White House to say no, we won’t negotiate, that just doesn’t work,” Romney said during a brief conversation with reporters on Friday.

Raising the debt limit does not authorize new spending, but is necessary for the government to pay for existing expenditures. The Department of the Treasury has warned if the ceiling is not raised, the government could default on the national debt as soon as June 1. Congress raised the debt limit three times during the Trump administration.

Late last month, House Republicans passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, slashing government spending and only allowing spending to increase by 1% in following years, The Associated Press reported. The legislation also derails much of Biden’s domestic agenda. President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the legislation which passed the House by just two votes.

“The White House should sit down if they don’t like it and negotiate something they think is better. I think stonewalling something so important is not consistent with how a democratic republic is supposed to work,” Romney said.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mitt Romney talks with reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Education Center, May 5, 2023.

Romney brushed aside any thought that the Democratic-controlled Senate could devise a workable solution to the impasse.

“Republicans have the majority in the House, and Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy is only going to bring something forward that he thinks is going to pass the House,” Romney said. “The Senate can’t do this. It can only be done by the White House and the House.”

Clarence Thomas

Romney said the judicial branch, and not Congress, should handle the growing ethical scandal around Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I would expect that the Chief Justice and the court itself will look at some of the allegations and determine which things are problematic and which are not,” Romney said.

In recent weeks, ProPublica has reported on several financial entanglements between Thomas and billionaire Harlan Crow. Crow has showered Thomas and his wife with lavish vacations and allowed him to use his private plane and mega yacht. Crow purchased and renovated Thomas’ mother’s House, allowing her to continue living there rent-free. It was revealed earlier this week that Crow paid private boarding school tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew. Thomas neglected to include any of Crow’s generosity in his public financial disclosures.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that judicial activist Leonard Leo, who co-founded the conservative Federalist Society, arranged for Thomas’ wife, Ginni, to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work in 2012. Leo specified that her name be omitted from any paperwork related to the payments.

Romney added other ethical issues, including Justice Sonja Sotomayor’s decision not to recuse herself from two cases involving the company that publishes her books and has paid her millions, have cast a dark cloud over the court, which needs to review its own ethical rules.

“You want to avoid doing the wrong stuff or the appearance of doing the wrong stuff. It’s clear that, at least from an appearance standpoint. It raises a lot of questions in the public mind,” Romney said. “We really don’t want to lose confidence in the Supreme Court. Having that jeopardized is extremely unfortunate.”


Romney again deflected questions about when he plans to make a decision about running for reelection in 2024.

“I’m a day closer (to a decision) today than yesterday,” Romney said, “but I don’t have a date certain when I’ll make up my mind.”

Romney repeated his stance that his reelection plans hinge on what he might be able to accomplish in a second term. “I’ve had two or more extraordinarily productive years. I’ve gotten a lot done I wanted to do,” Romney said.

He pointed to his direct involvement in several significant legislative accomplishments, including a the massive infrastructure bill in 2021. However, some factors will weigh into his decision whether to run again.

“As I look forward, what things can I do in the next six years? Who will the president be? Who will the other senators be? If I feel the things I can get done that are important to get done, that’s going to lead me to want to do it. If I feel that I can’t get a lot more done, then let someone else have a chance,” Romney said.

Romney’s fundraising activity suggests he may be looking at retiring after one term in Washington. He raised just under $112,000 during the first three months of 2023, the second-smallest total among incumbent senators facing reelection next year.