Last November, an overwhelming majority of Utahns in the 3rd District elected Rep. Jason Chaffetz with the expectation that he would fulfill his term of duty in Congress.
If Chaffetz does not intend to serve out his term, Utah voters deserve to know his timing so the state can not only begin the process of finding a new representative, but also better understand if he is focusing on his role in the House or jockeying for new soon-to-come opportunities.
Chaffetz again made national headlines this week with his correct insistence on seeing a memo from former FBI Director James Comey that allegedly documents an attempt by President Trump to quell an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia.
“I need to see it sooner rather than later,” Chaffetz tweeted. “I have my subpoena pen ready.”
While it’s encouraging to see Chaffetz engaged on this issue, it’s also remarkably confusing.
Various news outlets have reported that Chaffetz is planning to step down from office soon to pursue an opportunity with Fox News Channel. Some say that he is scheduled to start his new position in July, which would suggest that Chaffetz would have to depart from Congress almost immediately to prepare for his new life in the private sector.
And yet, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, he is leading the charge on what may well be a lengthy and contentious investigation into the president. So is he staying or going?
While simultaneously demanding transparency from government in the media, he is being opaque to the people of Utah about his immediate plans. The constituents who voted for him deserve clarity.
Chaffetz is certainly free to live his life as he chooses. If, however, he intends to finish out his term and continue as chair of the House Oversight Committee, then he needs to devote his full attention to the job he currently has. This investigation will not be well-served by a chairman who is more focused on his post-congressional activities than the matter at hand.
There’s also the issue of the special election that would be necessary should Chaffetz decide to step down early. There is no clear process in place to accommodate a congressional resignation in Utah, and the governor’s office will need to set up a special election to choose Chaffetz’s replacement. If an early resignation is in Chaffetz’s plans, he would do well to follow his own advice and act sooner rather than later.
It’s not just the Comey memo investigation that’s at stake here. The issues before Congress today are perhaps more challenging than at any time in recent memory. The Republicans have promised health care reform and tax reform, and the need to address entitlement spending has never been greater. All these things require a representative who is actively engaged in pursuing solutions. If Chaffetz does not want to be that representative, then it is time for him to pass the torch to someone who does.