The following is a transcript of an interview with Congressman John Curtis that aired Sunday, October 31 2021, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Congressman John Curtis of Utah, a Republican who is scheduled to travel this week to Glasgow to attend that climate summit. Congressman, thank you for joining us ahead of your trip.
REP. JOHN CURTIS (R-UTAH): Good morning, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to tackle some business here at home first. The House is expected to vote, as you heard, this coming week on that $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan. This is roads and bridges. It's popular. Why are you opposing it?
REP. CURTIS: Well, this thing has been botched from the beginning. You know, this was negotiated in good faith in the Senate, and I have no doubt had it come straight to the House, it would have passed with strong Republican support. But the reality of it is we were told from the very beginning that this was coupled with the reconciliation spending. Was just a no go for Republicans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, so what I hear you saying, though, is that it's about like optics, that it's about politics. You would have 3.6 billion for your state come in here as a result of this bill. Aren't you just making a political point? Isn't that what people hate about Washington?
REP. CURTIS: So, listen, my state is more worried about debt than handouts from the federal government. Sure, there's some good things in that bipartisan infrastructure bill, but the reality of it is, is that's not the vote. They've been very clear. If the bipartisan infrastructure package passes, so does the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Now it may not be 3.5 trillion anymore. But I'll tell you, on foremost in Utah's mind, is debt.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you expect Republicans to try to stand in the way of this. It sounds like.
REP. CURTIS: It's not us standing in the way. Listen, Republicans have no control. You can't imagine how frustrating it is to be a Republican in the House right now. This is all in the Democrats' hand, and I don't even know if we're going to have a vote on it. We were told last week we would vote. We were told two weeks of- before we would vote. So, who knows where this is going to land?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's ask you now about climate, which as- as we introduce you, you are going to that Glasgow summit. You're also the one of the founders of this conservative climate caucus. That is something that will surprise people, they often hear climate change and hear very partisan points of view here. You as a Republican are trying to make a statement. Specifically, what is your message on what needs to be a viable energy source for the United States?
REP. CURTIS: Yeah, the message is very clear. First of all, the message is- is that Republicans do care. We've been subject to a branding problem, and we need to overcome that. But loud and clear, Republican's care, and--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You think it's just a branding problem?
REP. CURTIS: Oh, absolutely. Listen, I'm here from the state of Utah, and I guarantee you there are more Republicans here than most places, and I know deep down, everybody cares about this planet. We want to do what's best for it. We want to leave it off better for our children. Now we're turn- It's fair to say we're turned off by the extremist rhetoric, and we don't always agree on the way to get there. But I can promise you, Republicans do care deeply, and let me just show you this caucus is a great example.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something specifically you spent a lot of time on, which you in interviews I've read, talk about nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Do your constituents really want nuclear plants in their backyard?
REP. CURTIS: Listen, a lot of times when we think about nuclear, we think about our- our grandparents nuclear and we need to change our paradigm on that. Listen, U.S. innovation and technology can lead us past the concerns that we have with nuclear, whether it be safety or whatever those concerns are. We don't have to accept old generation nuclear.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well-
REP. CURTIS: And by the way, Utah does want it in our backyard. We're one of the few UAMPS here, a municipality- a conglomerate of municipalities is one of the few that have actually made it partway through the permitting process for a small nuclear reactor. And PacifiCorp are a major utility here, is working with Warren Buffett to bring nuclear.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And there's the $6 billion in this bipartisan infrastructure bill that would go to some of those small nuclear reactors. There's nine and a half billion to research clean hydrogen and create offices to manage it. You got to like those provisions, even though you're voting down the bill.
REP. CURTIS: Well, the fact that you could- a blind squirrel could find a nut in a forest, right? That's- that's what it's like looking through this bill, trying to find something that you like in it. Six billion dollars out of trillions and trillions of dollars isn't really a serious effort to- to explore things that really are fundamental if we're going to get to a green future.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what is the Republican path to a green future specifically? What are the proposals you want to hear?
REP. CURTIS: Well, let me say, first of all, if we follow the Republican path, we don't need to kill U.S. jobs, we don't need to export our jobs overseas and subject ourselves to our enemies. We have ideas that- that improve the U.S. economy, that rely on U.S. technology and U.S. innovation, such as new nuclear. As we mentioned, hydrogen and- and fossil fuels have got to be part of the conversation. We've reduced more greenhouse gas emissions here in the United States with fossil fuels than the entire Green New could have- Green New Deal could have ever dreamed of doing. And it's a mistake to demonize fossil fuels. They're actually part of our answer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, part of what I hear frequently is, OK make these adaptations don't eliminate. But the challenge is, how do you meet the moment in terms of urgency when you are trying to put in investments that take a decade or more to get there? So how do you do both things at once?
REP. CURTIS: Well, you have to do both things at once, and let's be honest, when we set unrealistic goals,--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you make the market more efficient? If- if not for creating tax credits and doing things that have government subsidies, how do you move it faster?
REP. CURTIS: Listen, our- our free marketplace is remarkable, it's- it's U.S. innovation and technology that's led to the vast reductions in carbon that we already have. And I have full confidence in this marketplace now. That's not to say that as a government, we don't have a role that we- that we shouldn't be looking for those areas to incentivize and help and poke and prod along the way. But- but we need all hands-on deck, you know, and we need to talk about this in a bipartisan way and not just the extreme ideas, which, by the way, have let us in a terrible direction. We're looking at an energy crisis this winter. Rates are skyrocketing that may be impacting those who can least afford to pay for it. If we're not careful, we're on the path of Germany that- that doesn't look good.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, have a safe trip. We'll leave it there and FACE THE NATION will be back.
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