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What kind of diet does Utah Rep. John Curtis say America needs to go on?

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Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks to journalists during a recent summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan, Utah.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, speaks to journalists during a recent summit at the Malouf Foundation in Logan on April 17, 2021. Curtis says it’s time for the country to go on a fiscal diet.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Utah Rep. John Curtis says it’s time for the country to go on a fiscal diet.

Curtis, a Republican, came out against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pairing up the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill the Senate passed this week and the Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion budget plan Thursday.

“The nation is in desperate need of a fiscal diet,” he said in a statement. “These bills may be attractive to the many who see money coming their way, but it is not the Utah way — nor is it the way I vote.”

Pelosi, D-Calif., told rank-and-file Democrats on Wednesday that the House will not take up the infrastructure package this month, rejecting calls from moderates in her caucus who are demanding a quick vote, according to The Hill.

Since the infrastructure talks launched in earnest months ago, Pelosi has adopted the position that the House will not turn to the infrastructure package until the Senate passes a much larger budget package filled with Democratic social benefits programs and climate initiatives.

Curtis said spending nearly $5 trillion on the two bills is no way to temper inflation, a worker shortage, and “worst of all” massive debt, incurred by raising taxes on small businesses while giving high earners in blue states tax cuts, decreasing health care innovation and stripping U.S. companies of their competitive edge internationally.

“While I applaud the bipartisan work in the Senate to deal with critical infrastructure, the insistence of Speaker Pelosi to link the two bills only adds to a government that is infatuated with itself and the mistaken idea that the federal government is the answer to all our problems,” he said.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Pelosi’s decision to link the bills confirms that the “so-called bipartisan” infrastructure bill is only a means to Democrats implementing their larger agenda.

The $3.5 trillion reconciliation package is a “massive step in the wrong direction,” he said in a statement.

“It includes an enormous expansion of the welfare state, huge investments in Green New Deal policy, bailouts that are targeted to blue states, and more. This is not the time to abandon all fiscal responsibility. Inflation is rising at the fastest pace in over a decade, and our national debt is at an all-time high. Tax-and-spend policy is how we found ourselves in this hole — it isn’t the way out,” Stewart said.

Shortly after passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Senate passed a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, the first step toward Democrats approving the spending plan without Republican votes through a process known as reconciliation. Most bills in the evenly divided Senate require 60 votes to pass.

The budget proposal would expand paid family and medical leave, make child care more accessible, create universal pre-K and tuition-free community college, and extend enhanced household tax credits passed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also recommends lowering the Medicare eligibility age and expanding benefits to include dental, vision and hearing.

The proposal also calls for expanding green energy and controlling climate change through business tax incentives, consumer rebates and polluter fees.

Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney were on opposite sides of the infrastructure vote. Romney, who helped negotiate the package, voted in favor, while Lee voted against.

Both, though, oppose the budget plan, which Romney described as a “large, soft blue whale” that would drive up the already ballooning national debt.

“I would dare say it’s more money than has ever been spent at any one time for one legislative proposal, not just of the United States of America but of the history of the world,” Lee said in a recent Senate floor speech.

He described government spending as “reckless” and that it needs to stop. He said Democrats’ spending plan has the potential to be a “reverse Robin Hood mission.”

A small handful of well-connected already wealthy people will get rich, they’ll get very rich,” Lee said. “But it’s the people, the hard-working families across the nation who are forced to pay the price, the last thing we need for our already frightening inflation is to spend that amount of money.”