Mitt Romney doesn't respect JD Vance — but he sure is willing to work with him

Republican Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Republican Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images; Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • Sen. Mitt Romney said he couldn't "disrespect someone more" than his GOP colleague, JD Vance.

  • Despite that disrespect, the two have notably worked together on two key pieces of legislation.

  • Vance says he's fine working with "people who badmouth me in public."

The United States Senate can be a strange place.

On Wednesday afternoon, less than an hour after Republican Sen. Mitt Romney announced that he would not seek re-election next year, The Atlantic published the first excerpt of a forthcoming biography of the Utah senator.

The excerpt includes several passages in which Romney — who will remain in the Senate for over a year until his term ends in January 2025 — makes several unflattering comments about his Republican colleagues.

The bulk of Romney's ire, at least in this initial book excerpt, was directed at Sen. JD Vance — the "Hillbilly Elegy" author and former Never Trumper who transformed into a staunch supporter of the former president before he began his 2022 campaign.

"I don't know that I can disrespect someone more than JD Vance," Romney said in the summer of 2021, according to the excerpt. "It's not like you're going to be famous and powerful because you became a United States senator. It's like, really? You sell yourself so cheap?"

"How do you sit next to him at lunch?" Romney also mused.

As it turns out, it's more easy than you might think. Romney, the genteel Never-Trumper and 2012 presidential nominee, has partnered with Sen. Vance on major pieces of legislation more than once.

"My job is to do things for the people of Ohio," Vance told Insider on Thursday. "If that requires working with people who badmouth me in public, then that's what I'll do."

In May, Romney was one of just a handful of GOP senators to cosponsor the Railway Safety Act of 2023, a bill to improve safety protocols for trains carrying hazardous materials that a bipartisan group of senators introduced after the train derailment in East Palestine. Romney's support is notable, given Vance's ongoing struggle to lock down sufficient Republican support for the new regulations.

And on Wednesday — hours before Romney's comments became public — the two were among a group of Republican senators to introduce a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $11 by 2028. A short summary of the bill provided by Romney's office proudly displays the two senators' names, among others, at the bottom of the page.

"He and I have always gotten along," said Vance. "I know, allegedly, the comments were sort of from a long time ago, so maybe he's had a change of heart. You'd have to ask him."

Romney's office did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

Vance, who loudly laughed when asked about Romney's comments, also offered something of a challenge to the retiring senator.

"He's a grown man," said Vance. "If he has a problem with me, he should talk to me about it, not whine to a reporter about it."



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