At the end of Sen. Mike Lee's first town hall meeting of the year, a few dozen Utah County Republicans rushed up to shake his hand and ask a question or two. And soon this tea-party champion found himself in the rather uncomfortable position of defending President Barack Obama.
Some of the attendees in Spanish Fork were adamant the president has violated the law and should be impeached, or that he isn't a credible commander in chief to begin with.
Lee carefully explained that while he didn't agree with the outcome of the 2012 election, Obama won. He said no matter how much conservatives disagree with his policies, it isn't evident he has committed any "high crimes and misdemeanors" at this point.
The senator, who prides himself on being a constitutional scholar, also repeatedly told the crowd that any impeachment proceedings, no matter how unlikely at this point, would begin in the House. The Senate's job is to sit in judgment of any articles of impeachment.
"We're stuck with him," Lee said.
Trust issues • A gentleman from Benjamin, Utah, asked Lee whether it's time to call for a constitutional convention to pass amendments mandating a balanced budget, term limits and prohibiting federal actions not explicitly mentioned in the founding documents. This strategy bypasses the need for direct congressional action and has never been used.
Lee deftly recognized the question as pertaining to conservative talk-show host Mark Levin's new book The Liberty Amendments, and while Lee praised Levin, he also made it clear that organizing a constitutional convention makes him a bit squeamish.
"Do you know who would run a constitutional convention?" he asked. "It would be John Boehner and Harry Reid. I trust Harry Reid a little less than James Madison and George Washington."
Gone fishing • With a little more free time these days, Mitt Romney took a fishing trip to Alaska, where he sadly didn't net a single trout. The Ketchikan Daily News reports that a local fishing guide picked up Romney, four friends and a bodyguard from a yacht and then flew by plane to Secret Lake on Prince of Wales Island. The weather was nice for most of the trek, the newspaper said, but then rain moved in and everyone got soaked.
Intro to Israel • Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, joined 25 fellow Republican members of Congress on a trip to Israel earlier this month, a semi-annual journey funded by the American Israel Education Foundation.
Stewart, who had never been to Israel before, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chief negotiator and defense minister for the Palestinian Authority, and says his eyes were opened to just what a complicated situation the two sides face.
"It was interesting and frankly kind of discouraging," Stewart said. "You walk away thinking, man, the problems of this thing are just nearly overwhelming."
Stewart said the group toured parts of Jerusalem and ventured into the West Bank and Gaza. The congressional delegation also visited the Golan Heights, along the Syrian border, where Stewart recalled hearing shelling in the not-so-distant background.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led the tour, which follows one taken by Democratic members headed up by House Whip Steny Hoyer.
SUWA's hopes • As Rep. Rob Bishop readies his public lands initiative that seeks to bring all sides together for a compromise on what to do with federal lands, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) might be trying to inoculate itself against a potential blowback from its supporters for working with Bishop on the legislation.
Legislative Director Jen Beasley Ujifusa sent an email to SUWA members last week explaining why the alliance would sit down at the table with Bishop and oil and gas executives.
But Ujifusa noted that it's taken 30 years of activism to help get them to the "corner of Hope and Pragmatism."
"To be sure, this effort is fraught with challenges," she wrote. "We don't know what the final legislation if we even get that far will be. There's no guarantee we'll like it. But if we don't try, it's guaranteed we won't."
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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.