Utah promises to be in the fray in new Congress

Published: Monday, Jan. 3 2011 10:46 p.m. MST

Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah arrives at the inauguration of Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

WASHINGTON — It's a new year with a new Congress — and decidedly new priorities.

When the 112th Congress convenes this week, Republicans take charge of the House of Representatives. With some GOP lawmakers vowing to roll back the Obama agenda, Utah's new congressional delegation will be in the middle of the fray.

"What Americans are demanding most right now is fiscal responsibility," said the nation's youngest U.S. senator, Mike Lee, R-Utah. "They're demanding we move in a direction of a balanced budget and I think we're going to see great strides toward that on both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress."  

Lee made his comments at the Capitol Monday, where he attended Gov. Gary Herbert's inauguration, sitting with other members of the delegation in the front row.

The GOP plans to first target the Obama health care law.

The new House Speaker John Boehner has a 49-seat majority. He could bring up a vote for repeal this month. Then, it would need to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

"The question is can we get some of those things through the Senate, and that's going to be very uphill," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "A lot will depend on the people out there. If they raise enough Cain, the Democrats may feel compelled to do some things that really are fiscally proper and right."  

Obama and Democrats contend many Americans support key parts of the health care law. The president has promised to veto a repeal.

In the new Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will be in the majority and wants to attack spending.

"We just can't continue to add to the debt of the country," Chaffetz said Monday. "We just can't do it."  

He said it was probably easier to be in the minority, where "no" was the default position.

"But now with the power and the gavel moving over to House Republicans, there comes a lot more responsibility and I think a high expectation to work with the president," Chaffetz said. "But I'm not there to be the president's lapdog."

This new year will also be key as a prelude to a 2012 re-election race for Hatch.

"We're going to run again," Hatch said. "We think when people really look at the record, they'll say, 'My gosh, how do you replace a guy who is going to head the Finance Committee, the most powerful committee in all of Congress?' That's like saying forget Utah."

He could face at least one possible high-profile challenger — Chaffetz — who said he's mulling it over.

"I am thinking about it. I'd be disingenuous to say I wasn't thinking about it," Chaffetz said.

The 112th Congress convenes Wednesday.

E-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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