Utah Sen. Mitt Romney tours the Utah Department of
Transportation’s Traffic Operations Center in Salt Lake City on
Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney has traveled around the state this week talking about how the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill would benefit Utah, while acknowledging it might not get through the House.
“The Democrats are tangled up in their own underwear. I’m not sure they’re going to be able to find a way to get the infrastructure bill passed. I hope they do. It’ll be good for Utah,” the Utah Republican said Thursday on KSL NewsRadio’s “Inside Sources.”
The bipartisan bill represents $550 billion in new spending, including about $3 billion that would flow to Utah for roads and bridges, broadband expansion, and rail, transit and water projects.
“These things are desperately needed,” said Romney, who was among the bipartisan group of senators who negotiated the deal.
Romney’s latest stop was at the Utah Department of Transportation Traffic Operations Center, where he met with UDOT executive director Carlos Braceras. The operations center was built just in time for Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. Romney headed the city’s Olympic organizing committee.
“It feels a little bit like a full circle for some of us. The TOC was really rushed to finish to get open before the Olympics,” Braceras said, adding Romney is now back helping UDOT build a world-class traffic signal system under the infrastructure bill.
Romney said he and UDOT are working in Washington for “even smarter intersections.” The bill includes grants for states for systems to reduce wait times at red lights, improve traffic flow and respond quicker to incidents on the highways.
Braceras noted that for Romney success in transportation is “nothing but green lights.”
The senator, who has said he doesn’t like sitting at red lights when there is no traffic, confirmed that saying, “I hope they make sure the lights for all of us are as green as possible.”
Whether the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gets the green light from House Democrats remains to be seen.
The House, along partisan lines, passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution and advanced the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Tuesday. The vote allows Democrats to write and approve a massive spending package without Republicans and puts the infrastructure plan on a path to final passage in the House.
The measure includes a nonbinding commitment to vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27.
Nine House Democrats have said they would not vote for a plan that ties the infrastructure and budget bills together, while House progressives said they would not vote for the infrastructure legislation unless it is combined with the budget plan.
“The Democrats are between a rock and a hard place, and it’s delicious to watch as a Republican,” Romney said during a meeting Tuesday with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards.
Romney said he doesn’t know how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is going to resolve the issue, but she is “wily and smart” and might find a way around it. But, he said, it’s conceivable that the entire bill could disappear.
Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday that she is “committing to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Sept. 27” and would “rally” House Democrats to get it done. She also said she aims to work with Democrats in both chambers to pass a budget reconciliation bill that the Senate would approve.
Romney said he has reached out to Utah GOP House members and other Republicans to encourage them to vote for the infrastructure bill. He said he tells his Republican colleagues to vote for the bill because if they don’t, the Democrats, who own majorities in both chambers, would come up with something “a heck of a lot worse” than the bipartisan bill.