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Rep. John Curtis previews upcoming Congress

John Curtis
Rep. John Curtis of Utah's 3rd Congressional District.

U.S. House Rep. John Curtis spoke with KPCW about the upcoming legislative session in Washington D.C., which will usher in a split Congress.

Curtis represents Utah’s third congressional district, and was decisively reelected to a second term in November.

He said his top priority will be energy policy when he returns to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives in January.

“For me, energy is the big, big issue right now," Curtis said.

"It’s hitting inflation, it’s hitting national security, we’re seeing people lose their lives because of rolling blackouts. And it doesn’t need to be that way. And that can mesh very nicely with climate as well. It’s one of the big areas I work on, that intersection between climate and energy policy.”

Curtis is the founder of the Conservative Climate Caucus, which is the second largest GOP caucus in D.C. The group wants to reduce carbon emissions long-term, but believes domestic energy production including fossil fuels should continue for now.

Republicans won back control of the U.S. House in the November election. A key point in the GOP yet to be resolved is who will be Speaker of the House during the upcoming session.

While another contender hasn’t come forward, it isn’t a surefire bet Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California will hold the post. Curtis said he’s not sure what to expect.

“Could go smoothly, I think there’s a chance that they support Kevin, but at the same time if they hold out, we could go days, weeks, or even longer without a speaker,” he said.

Another thorn in the Republicans’ side is the scandal around representative-elect George Santos, who in November flipped a seat to the GOP in a New York district that covers Long Island. A recent New York Times report found that Santos lied extensively about his resume, including falsehoods about working for Goldman Sachs and where he went to college.

From his view, Curtis said it doesn’t look like a good situation.

“First of all, I want to find out exactly what he’s done and what he’s not done," he said. "If there are ways to hold him accountable in Congress I think we should. And most importantly, I think his constituents need to hold him accountable.”

Curtis recently visited Taiwan, the island nation close to China whose sovereignty remains contentious.

When it comes to international relations, Curtis said the U.S. has historically adopted the policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan, which is an effort to keep rhetoric vague in order to not tip China off regarding any U.S. intervention.

“I think the American people need to be watching carefully, because unlike Ukraine, this could put U.S. men and women on the ground over there," he said. "I certainly hope not, and we’ll do everything we can to keep that from happening, but there is that potential.

Along with other China hawks, Curtis is also passionate about the regulation of the Chinese social media app TikTok. Gov. Spencer Cox banned the app from all state-owned devices earlier this month, as did several other Republican governors due to privacy concerns.

“We talk about not using TikTok on government devices. If I were a parent, I would absolutely be monitoring every single thing that my kids were doing on TikTok.”

While Curtis has privacy concerns, he also spoke of potential harmful mental effects people may experience due to content TikTok’s algorithm feeds them.

“Before long, these teens that signed on maybe to look at a prom dress, are now looking at diet pills and are worried about their body. It’s very destructive, very maniacal, what these algorithms do.”

Curtis sponsored a bill that would extend the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in Salt Lake and Utah counties; it recently passed as part of the omnibus spending bill. It's expected to be signed into law Friday.