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What Utah GOP congressmen are saying about Kevin McCarthy winning House speakership

Nothing will come easy for McCarthy, but Rep. Chris Stewart says he knows how to work hard

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., gestures towards the newly installed nameplate at his office.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., gestures towards the newly installed nameplate at his office after he was sworn in as speaker of the 118th Congress in Washington, early Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Nothing will come easy for newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy but he knows how to get things done, Rep. Chris Stewart says.

“Our country is fortunate that Kevin McCarthy stepped up to lead. He knows the job he’s walking into is tough,” the Utah Republican tweeted Saturday morning.

“But Speaker McCarthy knows what it means to work hard. He knows what it means to set substantial, conservative goals. And he knows what it means to achieve them too.”

McCarthy finally won the speakership early Saturday on a 216-212 vote, with six conservatives who had blocked his path for four days voting present. McCarthy made major concessions, including some that would reduce his power as speaker, to get across the finish line.

One change empowers a single lawmaker to start the process to remove the speaker. Others include a guaranteed floor vote to establish term limits for all House members; an open amendment process; a rule giving Congress new powers over federal agencies, and a rule requiring bills to be published 72 hours before they hit the floor. 

Though he expressed frustration during the week, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said the longer-than-expected speaker election process brought House Republicans closer together. He said it’s now their responsibility to carry out the mandate of voters and govern effectively. He said he will work on advancing Utah’s values of fiscal responsibility, national security, and a strong economy.

“The next two years may be challenging, but I am determined to contribute to positive change in our country,” Curtis said in a statement.

As Republicans struggled to a elect a speaker, Curtis expressed concern about what might lie ahead in the new Congress

“What’s really most discouraging to me about the last couple of days is it is an indication how the next two years will likely go and the dysfunction that might be extended for two years,” he said in a video earlier in the week.

Stewart said McCarthy committed to deliver a strong economy that’s strong, a safe nation, a future built on freedom and an accountable government. Republicans, he said, look forward to making that commitment a reality and “getting this nation back on track.”

“Nothing is going to come easy in his new role, but he understands the significance it holds,” Stewart said. “We face a Democrat Party and President who continue to move left — it’s essential that we check the radical policy that Congress has produced for the past two years.”

Earlier in the week, Stewart said he worried that McCarthy made too many concessions to the dissenting lawmakers.

“I do believe we’re at the point now where we would so weaken the leadership, if we were to concede any more, that it would be in a very difficult leadership position anyway, it would make it nearly impossible for them to lead, which is why I think people on both sides recognize we’re probably at that point,” he said.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said the agreement between the two sides will lead to a better legislative process. 

Just before the final vote, Owens told the Deseret News that the biggest win was the opening up of the amendment process.

“We came here to give voice to the people we represent, but we couldn’t do that under Democrat leadership,” he said. “Being able to offer amendments means we can be part of the process all the way through.”

A floor amendment vote hasn’t been allowed in the House since 2016. Owens said under previous rules, leadership would dictate the crafting of all legislation, effectively giving a small group of people total control.

Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said he was proud to support McCarthy all the way through, and that his speakership is well deserved.

“He is the right leader to push our conference’s agenda to lower energy costs, address our border crisis, and get our debt and deficit challenges under control,” Moore said.

Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted Saturday that he is praying for McCarthy and all congressional leaders.

“This morning I am praying for Speaker McCarthy and those who have been selected by both parties to lead our country. He sought for and finally won an impossible job. I don’t envy him, but I pray that God will bless him with a wisdom, discernment and ability often lacking in DC,” he said.