Rep. Curtis Advocates for Alaska Natives on House Floor with Repeated Interruptions by Democratic Colleagues

Rep. Curtis Advocates for Alaska Natives on House Floor with Repeated Interruptions by Democratic Colleagues

September 16, 2019

Washington, DC—Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forest, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, spoke on the House floor opposing HR 1146 and in support of a Motion to Recommit. 

HR 1146 would end energy development in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, originally opened in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This bill is opposed by the entire Alaska Congressional delegation, Governor, and local Alaska Native population.

By not allowing development of this land, which a majority of Alaskans support, the United States would increase energy dependence on foreign adversaries, like China and Russia. The Motion to Recommit, offered by Representative Curtis, would “delay enactment until the President certifies that the bill will not result in a net increase of Russian oil and gas imports to the United States.”

“How is it we’re here considering a bill that has been opposed by every member of the Alaskan delegation since 1980? Not just the Alaskan delegation, but every governor of Alaska since 1980, and even the gubernatorial candidates last year: two Republicans, an Independent, and a Democrat oppose this bill.

I hear the term “science denier” tossed around, but I ask you who is denying science the most? Those who ignore the 85% of the carbon coming from outside the U.S. or those who think impacting .01% of ANWR will destroy the environment of Alaska.”

The Congressman’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Mr. Speaker, we’re all familiar with the famous line from Thomas Jefferson, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.”

So how is it we’re here considering a bill that has been opposed by every member of the Alaskan delegation since 1980? Not just the Alaskan delegation, but every governor of Alaska since 1980, and even the gubernatorial candidates last year: two Republicans, an Independent, and a Democrat oppose this bill.

This week, many of my friends across the aisle sought to protect “their” coastlines by banning offshore energy development. They know what’s best in their states. Apparently, this same standard of local control does not apply to Mr. Young, who is the only person in this body elected by the residents of Alaska.

Not only is this bill is opposed by the entire Alaska delegation, it’s opposed by the local Alaska Native population and written without consultation with the local Alaska Natives.

As the member of Congress who represents Bears Ears National Monument, I hear from my colleagues all the time about the importance of Native American consultation—and they’re right.

However, with local Alaska Native opposition to this bill and no consultation with them, this seems like a double standard.

In fact, just three days ago, I sat in a hearing where BLM was criticized for not working with the Native population. They held 11 formal sessions and 7 listening sessions with tribal leaders. Unless my colleagues took 18 trips to Alaska I am unaware of, we’re working with a double standard.

Those of you from states with small federal ownership have a difficult time understanding what it’s like to be from a state or county with has over 90% federal ownership. Imagine being a local elected official: maintaining roads, police, fires, sewers, parks, etc. when only 10% of your property generates property tax.

At the end of the day, Mr. Young and the Arctic Inupiat, not the rest of us, should be determining the fate of Alaska.

I’ve heard the argument that this development will contribute to climate change.

Really? I’m listening. This is one Republican that believes the climate is changing and man is influencing it. But I’m baffled why so many of you are willing to give a free pass to a human rights violating dictator in China and simultaneously deny the right of the Native Alaskans to have a living off the land.

If we were serious about climate change, I’ve got an idea for you. Let’s take all-natural gas from Anwar that currently is going back into the ground and send it to China and India to replace coal their coal. You may smirk, but that one action alone would reduce more global emissions than implementing the entire Green New Deal.

I hear the term “science denier” tossed around, but I ask you who is denying science the most? Those who ignore the 85% of the carbon coming from outside the U.S. or those who think impacting .01% of ANWR will destroy the environment of Alaska.

When the other side is ready to fight climate change with real solutions, Republicans stand at the ready with real ideas. This is not one of them.

To start, my friend Mr. Walden, and his colleagues on Energy and Commerce seem to create a new bill each day that would truly help prevent the causes and impacts of climate change.

This Motion to Recommit will prevent the bill from taking effect until the President certifies that it will not result in a net increase of Russian oil and gas imports into the United States.

The answer to climate change is not making the U.S. more reliant on foreign fossil fuels. A vote for this MTR is a vote to support local Alaska Natives, and a vote against this MTR is a vote for Russian oil interest.

I urge support of the Motion to Recommit. I yield the balance of my time.”

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Curtis’ Bipartisan Telehealth Bill Gains Support

Curtis’ Bipartisan Telehealth Bill Gains Support

September 10, 2019

 

Washington, DC—In July, Representatives John Curtis (R-UT) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, legislation that would encourage telehealth innovation and promote expanded access to healthcare services in rural and urban areas through telehealth and digital services. Bipartisan companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI). The bill has recently been endorsed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Intermountain Healthcare, and the Healthcare Leadership Council.

“Telehealth innovation is critical to expanding cost-effective healthcare access in a state like Utah, where care is often unavailable or difficult to access for rural communities,” said Curtis. “The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act will help incentivize healthcare organizations and providers to find innovative ways to deliver care to Utah families at a lower cost. Technology provides great potential to enhance connectivity between healthcare professionals and their patients and I’m pleased to work with willing partners on both sides of the aisle to find healthcare solutions for rural communities across Utah and around the country.”

Statements of Support:

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert:

“Rural healthcare is a perennial and serious healthcare in Utah. [This] bill encourages more healthcare providers and hospitals to launch telehealth programs through the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI) and calls on CMI to evaluate telehealth models for the cost, effectiveness, and improvement in quality of care, and reimburse programs that meet these criteria.”

Jim Sheets, Intermountain Healthcare Vice President, Outreach Services:

“Intermountain Healthcare is completely committed to utilizing telehealth and digital tools to expand access to healthcare in the Intermountain West.  Telehealth is a valuable tool that can decrease the cost of care and enhance services in rural communities where specialty care is not available. We are supportive of any legislation that helps increase access to telehealth services in our communities.” 

Mark R. Grealy, Healthcare Leadership Council President:

“The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act is a step toward expanding telehealth services that improve quality of care, reduce costs, and improve healthcare outcomes. HLC supports reexamining restrictive reimbursement and regulatory barriers that make it challenging to use telehealth. This legislation would allow providers to test telehealth delivery models without regard to the limitations on the type of service provided, geographic areas or location of the patient. Further, this legislation would expand coverage and payment for certain enhanced telehealth services that are certified as providing savings under the Medicare program and improving quality of care.”

Background

  • Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to apply to test expanded telehealth delivery models through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center (CMI). CMI is an existing program that tests new service models to reduce Medicare and Medicaid expenditures. 
  • Directs the Secretary of HHS to review telehealth models through a CMI independent evaluator, for cost, effectiveness, and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of healthcare delivery.
  • If the telehealth model improves quality of care without increasing spending or decreases Medicare spending, then that specific telehealth model will be covered through the greater Medicare program.

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Curtis Announces Fire and Watershed Damage Funding with US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary

Curtis Announces Fire and Watershed Damage Funding with US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary

September 2, 2019

 

Provo, DC— Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, released the following statement after hosting US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary James Hubbard and announcing funding to help communities recover and protect life and property following the Pole Canyon and Bald Mountain fires in Utah County.  

“I was pleased to be the first to deliver the news to the mayors and county officials at the Wildfire and Watershed Roundtable that Utah County will be receiving over $9.6 million in disaster relief funding to help those communities affected by last year’s fires recover.

All levels of government must work together to have a meaningful impact on wildfire prevention and mitigation. The partnership between local, state, and federal leaders is vital to the safety of Americans, as well as the health of our public lands. I am committed to working with the United States Department of Agriculture and Utah’s local leaders to prepare for wildfires, and quickly fix the damage done by past disasters.”

Natural Resources Conservation Services Funding

The Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 will provide $9,654,822 in the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP). The main work done under this program will be temporary measures like debris removal, stream bank protection, and other practices that will provide immediate relief and protection in high-risk areas.

USDA Under Secretary Visit

Last month, Rep. Curtis wrote to the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary James Hubbard, requesting a visit to Utah (see here).

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Curtis Hosts US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary; Introduces Wildfire Legislation

Curtis Hosts US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary; Introduces Wildfire Legislation

August 30, 2019

 

Provo, DC— Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, released the following statement after introducing legislation to allow counties to be paid retroactively for Emergency Watershed Protection work done after a project is approved, but before funds are dispersed:

“The effects of wildfire last long after the last flame has been extinguished. In many cases, the damage to our land, watersheds, and ecosystems can be seen for years. The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is an important tool to help our communities restore and recover watersheds following disaster. However, as is the case with many federal programs, projects are too often hindered by bureaucratic red tape, delaying important fire cleanup efforts.

I am proud to introduce the Funding Local Assistance and Recovery Efforts (FLARE) Act to allow restorative work to begin more quickly by ensuring counties and cities receive retroactive payments for work they complete on EWP projects during the time between the project being approved and funds being released.”

USDA Under Secretary Visit

Last month, Rep. Curtis wrote to the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary James Hubbard, requesting a visit to Utah. They will be joined by Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Matthew Lohr as they tour fire and watershed damage and engage with local leaders as they look for ways to best coordinate efforts.

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable James Hubbard
Under Secretary
Natural Resources and Environment
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Jefferson Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Under Secretary Hubbard:

I write to personally invite you to the State of Utah to visit sites affected by the devastating 2018 Fire Season and to participate in a roundtable with local leaders of the communities impacted by the fires.

As we enter the 2019 Fire Season, Utahns are still recovering from the damage from last year’s fires. I am encouraged by Secretary Perdue’s recent visit to Utah, his signing of a shared stewardship agreement with Governor Herbert, and the recent announcement of $20 million over four years to support and prioritize critical projects. I am hopeful these recent announcements facilitate and spur discussions on how we can achieve our mutual goals.

 All levels of government must work together to have a meaningful impact on wildfire prevention and mitigation. The partnership between local, state, and federal leaders is vital to the safety of Americans, as well as the health of our public lands. I am looking forward to discussing with you, and Utah’s local leaders, about how we can all work together to prepare for wildfires, and quickly fix damage done by past disasters.

Thank you for your service at the United States Department of Agriculture. I appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to your response and visit to the great State of Utah.

 

Sincerely,
John Curtis

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Curtis Feels “Tremendous Urgency” to Find Critical Balance Between Religious Liberty and Individual Rights

Curtis Feels “Tremendous Urgency” to Find Critical Balance Between Religious Liberty and Individual Rights

August 26, 2019

Salt Lake City, UT — Representative John Curtis (R-UT) spoke at Sutherland Institute’s Congressional Series entitled: “Religious Liberty for All.” The Congressman also wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Deseret News this week emphasizing how civil and religious liberty go hand-in-hand. Click here to read.

Video via Facebook

“Today conflicts with religious liberty are often framed as being in conflict with individual rights. I have heard some say that the phrase “religious freedom” essentially means the “freedom to discriminate against those who aren’t religious.” Of course, this is not an accurate representation of what religious liberty or freedom means, but we clearly have work to do to overcome that fear.

Rebranding the religious liberty movement and the way we communicate about it begins with a very clear recognition that religious liberty and individual expression are not a zero-sum game—there is room to protect both rights without compromising religious values. And at its core, if we complicate how we treat others with criteria that they hold or live by our same beliefs, we will fail.” 

The Congressman’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. My name is John Curtis and I represent Utah’s third district in the US House of Representatives.

I’m excited to speak to you today about Religious Liberty, a topic near and dear to my heart. Like so many others here in Utah, I’m a direct descendant of Brigham Young. (that was a polygamy joke).

After the death of the prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young led the Saints (and future Utahns) the rest of the way West, until they settled here in Utah. Those early pioneers sought liberty, and a place they could live free from persecution. In many ways, I feel like the journey of our forefathers to Utah mirrored the journey of our great American forefathers who came across the sea in search of their own freedom and liberty. In the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol hangs one of my favorite paintings, The Embarkation of the Pilgrims” commemorating that incredible journey of faith and sacrifice.

Those pilgrims and settlers who followed to our shores from all around the world dreamed of a shining city on a hill, where freedom from tyranny and opportunity for prosperity would be accompanied by religious liberty unlike they had ever known before.

That path to establishing the American idea of religious liberty was not a simple one, even after the pilgrims landed on these shores. But many of the great minds that built our country and the constitutional system that governs it, felt that they had been guided by God, and wanted to ensure that future generations of Americans had the freedom to seek that same guidance with the free exercise of religion.

George Washington didn’t require soldiers in his Continental army to take a religious oath, but he did encourage his soldiers to be mindful of the power of spirituality. He wrote in a general order that he “expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine Service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.”

In his farewell address, he wrote “Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Washington had a deep passion for religious study and spirituality that influenced many he came in contact with during the founding of our great nation.

Thomas Jefferson is widely recognized as one of the fathers of religious freedom. On his gravestone, he listed three accomplishments he most wanted to be remembered for: drafting the Declaration of Independence, founding the University of Virginia, and writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. That statute served as an inspiration for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson worked together on that document and its passage with James Madison—we remember him as the Father of the Constitution—who passionately argued that religious freedom was one of the fundamental rights the first patriots had bled for in the revolution.  

In drafting the first amendment, the founders sought to address two key points, writing “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” From the founding of our nation and in fact a very reason for our founding was that religious freedom—the liberty to both worship to one’s choosing or not worship at all—be seen as fundamental. Central. Essential to our American experiment.

In recent decades Congress has again taken opportunities to speak out and affirm support of religious liberty.

In 1990, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, legislation that prohibited the government from substantially burdening a persons exercise of religion unless doing so was necessary to further a “compelling government interest.”

In 1998, Congress unanimously passed the International Religious Freedom Act, which proclaimed “the right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.”

Today, the landscape is changing. Fewer and fewer young Americans are engaged with religion than the generations before them. Religious “nones,” a shorthand for those individuals who self-identify as atheists or agnostics or those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” make up roughly 23 percent of the US adult population. More than any other age group, 35 percent of millennials are religious “nones.” This growth of religious unaffiliating is growing in many demographics but is particularly strong for the entire millennial generation.

Because of this, it becomes much more difficult to make a case for religious freedom, as fewer Americans—and particularly those who are raising or will raise the coming generations—understand why religious liberty actually matters for them.

I strongly agree with the words of Elder Patrick Kearon, who recently spoke of the “need and real opportunity for religious freedom to be framed differently and to be more clearly understood…. ‘This is the way we’ve always done things’ or ‘This is the way we’ve always believed’ is not a particularly persuasive argument for young people…”

I believe those of us who understand the intrinsic value of religion, and of the fundamental importance of religious freedom, have a responsibility to fight for it and to make a case for it in our communities. To do so successfully in our current political and social climate, I believe we need to rebrand the religious liberty movement. Make no mistake, the principles we are fighting for, enshrined in our founding documents and painstakingly established over centuries before that, are no different, but the way we communicate about their value must reach beyond its current audience as so many around our country and around the world leave religion behind.

Today conflicts with religious liberty are often framed as being in conflict with individual rights. I have heard some say that the phrase “religious freedom” essentially means the “freedom to discriminate against those who aren’t religious.” Of course, this is not an accurate representation of what religious liberty or freedom means, but we clearly have work to do to overcome that fear.

Rebranding the religious liberty movement and the way we communicate about it begins with a very clear recognition that religious liberty and individual expression are not a zero-sum game—there is room to protect both rights without compromising religious values. And at its core, if we complicate how we treat others with criteria that they hold or live by our same beliefs, we will fail.

In recent years, some of the most heated debates over religious liberty have come in tandem with individual rights of members of the LGBTQ community. 

I feel an urgency to pause here and state clearly, unequivocally on the record, that I believe the LGBTQ community is a critical part of the fabric of our country and our state. They are deserving of our unequivocal love and respect, and their contributions here in Utah are utterly invaluable.

As the mayor of Provo, it was important to me that the entire community felt this wide-spread love. I prioritized inclusion and sought to ensure my administration did everything possible to recognize the intrinsic value of all our citizens, including our LGBTQ community. I fought hard against discrimination and was grateful for my association with organizations like Provo Pride, Equality Utah, Encircle, and others who I was honored to stand with to ensure our policies in City Hall reflected the love in our hearts.

Perhaps even more than that, I’m grateful for the associations and relationships in my life that have helped me better understand the experience of the LGBTQ community and have been patient with a conservative, religious, Utah boy who grew up in the 60’s and took longer to develop the appropriate empathy than he would’ve liked. I say again, I am incredibly grateful for the contribution of the LGBTQ community and will always stand with them in love and support.

Our current political climate is polarizing, and so we face a unique challenge of balancing needed protections for the LGBTQ community with the importance of protecting religious liberty—one of the fundamental rights enshrined at the founding of our nation. But I believe this compromise is possible because of what we saw here at home with the “Utah compromise,” –historic legislation that effectively balanced the absolute rights of both LGBTQ individuals as human beings and religious institutions protected by the First Amendment.

In Congress, this debate has occasionally missed the mark and I am disappointed that we have not followed in the footsteps of Utah. The Equality Act, which we debated and the House passed earlier this year, failed to strike the balance that Utah worked carefully to achieve. Instead of seeking a compromise between the two competing interests of religious liberty and individual rights, sponsors of the bill treated it as mutually exclusive, overturning decades of important, balancing protections like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, otherwise known as RFRA. In Utah, we are intimately familiar with RFRA because one of its champions was our own Senator Orrin Hatch. He worked on that compromise with now Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy, who will long be remembered as the Liberal Lion of the Senate. Casting that historic compromise aside was short-sighted, and a strong indication that the will for cooperation and collaboration on this sensitive issue might be weak in the current Congress.

During the Equality Act debate, I introduced commonsense amendments to try and restore the balance represented in that original compromise—to ensure that protections for religious institutions remained—but my amendments were unfortunately ignored, along with the amendments from many other representatives who sought to salvage this moment and turn it into an opportunity to make important progress, rather than make political statements.

This, like many other debates that have happened in the House this year, amounted to little more than legislative gas-lighting—taking an issue where overwhelming bipartisan compromise is possible and moving it far to the left while attacking Republicans for not supporting the original shared goals that we do in fact share. I was frustrated that my colleagues disregarded willing partners such as myself, who were and still are anxious to work with them to chart a path forward on the issues that matter.

Despite this, I believe there is still a real opportunity to continue cementing the critical balance between religious liberty and individual rights. There’s also tremendous urgency. As Congress fails to address these issues, we see that they still get decided but by our judicial system rather than our legislative one. As more and more cases move forward just like Masterpiece Cakeshop and Hobby Lobby did, we must recognize that firm guidance for rules of the road are necessary. I fear that our hesitancy to engage on this issue sets us up for a missed opportunity to carefully craft a balance that may not be achieved by the courts down the road.

Here in Utah, we have an opportunity to continue leading the way and fostering the religious liberty rebrand to reengage those who don’t put a high value on religious freedom. I believe the key to that is ensuring that our North Star in this debate is the notion that the worth of every soul is great. That every person has intrinsic value, and the right to be who they want to be without impediment from government, society, and our communities.

While we fight for that love and recognition for members of our LGBTQ community, religious communities must also be fought for and continually protected. Part of that fight extends to pushing back against the domestic terrorism we’ve seen in recent months against places of faith like mosques and synagogues. A threat to any person of faith on our shores is a threat to all faith on our shores. Those of us who believe in the deeply American value of religious liberty have an absolute responsibility to stand with our brothers and sisters of faith against those who would quash religious expression in any form.

I want to close with a quote that I know President Larsen also appreciates, by Alexis de Tocqueville: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” 

It cannot be an option for us to cease to be great, and the fight to protect religious liberty is absolutely critical to not only that greatness but also to our American identity and our continued peace and prosperity here in the United States.”

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