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SALT LAKE CITY — Republican Congressman John Curtis shared warm messages of unity and a call to root out "political extremism" while making the rounds in meetings with lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill Tuesday.
"I look for every opportunity to call it out when I see it," Curtis said of "political extremism" to the House Democratic Caucus. "It's something that has gripped us as a country."
The former Provo mayor said if the U.S. is going to heal its political divides, it has to start with the individual, so he said he's resolved to setting that example.
"I'm trying to spend my political capital being a good example," he said. "If we all can do that ... that will move the needle."
Curtis had a warm welcome from House Democrats in his annual visits with lawmakers. He also met with the state's Senate Democrats, as well as House and Senate GOP caucuses, though Democrats were the only lawmakers that enabled the public to listen to the meeting on a livestream posted via Facebook.
Members of Utah's congressional delegation traditionally visit the Legislature every year during the annual session. Reps. Burgess Owens and Blake Moore visited last month.
Curtis told Democrats that even though they're the minority in Utah, "I sincerely do want to work for you. I do want to understand the issues you're working on ... and sometimes I might surprise you." He pointed to when he broke with his fellow Utah Republican congressmen last year to vote in favor of extending the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, thanked Curtis for not voting along with Owens and Rep. Chris Stewart to object to the results of the 2020 election.
"It was courageous," King told Curtis, noting that vote went against the tide of most Republicans in Congress. "We know it wasn't an easy vote."
However, King said Curtis' vote not to impeach now former President Donald Trump was "something we weren't so thrilled with."
"My biggest regret about impeachment," Curtis replied, "is it was 48 hours."
Curtis said it was a "mistake" that the House fast-tracked Trump's impeachment articles, giving members of Congress less than two days to weigh and research the issue.
"We don't know what President Trump did in the hours (after the breach)," Curtis said. "We don't know who didn't call the National Guard. We don't know so many things."
Curtis said that vote was "perhaps an easy vote" for some in Congress, but it wasn't for him.
"We feel your pain," King said.
I'm trying to spend my political capital being a good example. If we all can do that ... that will move the needle.
–Utah Rep. John Curtis
Curtis also said he wanted to "compliment" them on their efforts around climate change and environmental stewardship, and said he's "taken a personal challenge to get Republicans to catch up with you and working hard to bring Republicans to the table."
"There are so many areas of agreement," Curtis said, adding that he "regrets" that the GOP "not being at the table has implied we don't care about the Earth." He said he has more plans underway to bridge those divides.
As for COVID-19 relief and stimulus checks, Curtis said "nothing will get in the way" of that package, "especially Republicans" because President Joe Biden has proceeded with the budget reconciliation process, meaning he only needs support of the Democratic majority to get it approved.
Curtis also told state lawmakers he wished "the rest of the country could disagree like you disagree" and that the rest of the country would "embrace" values such as fiscal conservativeness like Utah leaders do. Curtis also talked about joining as the newest member to the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group in Congress aiming to find common ground on key issues.
And Curtis said he's hoping for a long-term solution for the struggle over Bears Ears National Monument, calling it an "extremely high priority" of his to "supersede" Biden's executive order canceling Trump's rollback with legislative action in Congress. He said if Congress can't enact something more permanent, then it's "only a matter of time" before a Republican president again reversed the Bears Ears National Monument.
"This pingpong is the worst possible answer for the land," he said, calling legislation a "far better solution for everybody."