WASHINGTON — With House Republican leaders eager to have his vote for sweeping tax reforms, John Curtis ended his term as Provo mayor and shortly after became Utah’s newest congressman.
As he raised his right hand, he held a Bible in his left that once belonged to his mother-in-law, Harriet Cannon Snarr.
Curtis' short speech — he wrote it on two Post-it notes after being told he’d have about one minute — centered on the importance of family.
Curtis pointed to his wife, Sue, in the gallery above, and told the chamber that Sue’s great-grandmother, Martha Hughes Cannon, was the first female state senator in the United States.
“Even better, she won that office by defeating her husband,” he said, prompting many House members to stand again and applaud.
Minutes later, with some help finessing the voting card machine, Curtis had cast his first congressional vote — a yes vote for the Federal Acquisitions Savings Act.
He’s expected to take part in a far more anticipated vote later this week, with pressure on Republican leaders to pass major tax reforms after swinging and missing on health care.
That vote comes amid a whirlwind transition for Curtis, who earlier Monday checked into the 3rd District congressional office vacated in June by Jason Chaffetz. His 32-point special election victory over Cottonwood Heights physician Kathie Allen still has yet to be certified by the state’s official canvass.
Curtis noted with mock concern a mouse trap in the corner of his new office and remarked on the size of the office key, which he held in his upturned palm for effect.
"That's it?" he said, laughing. "I expected some grand key."
In the place of his missing name card sat a small paper plate, on the back of which his 8-year-old grandson had drawn the U.S. Capitol dome under a shining sun.
“Good Luck Tonight,” it read.
He won’t be sleeping in the office, as Chaffetz famously did. But his chief of staff, former Provo Deputy Mayor Corey Norman, plans to blow up an air mattress in the office next door to Curtis' — at least until he can find a more permanent solution.
Curtis, for his part, expects to close Wednesday on a house near the Hill.
He was sworn in twice Monday night by House Speaker Paul Ryan — first in a minute long ceremony alongside family and then officially on the House floor.
Curtis wore his father’s watch, and a ring that his mother gave his father after meeting through the want ads at Brigham Young University. Dee and Dawn Curtis died within a year of each other in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Curtis was joined for Monday’s swearing-in by six children and their four spouses, three grandchildren and his three siblings.
Earlier Monday, he was introduced at a reception in his honor by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who flew to Salt Lake City to campaign for Curtis.
Also in attendance were Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Mia Love.
“We’ve been at 75 percent for too long,” said Bishop of the absence created by Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor. “The fact that we’re going to have all of us here, working together, that’s big for Utah.”
Bishop said that between moving in, finding a committee and beginning work toward re-election, Curtis is going to have his hands full. Both he and Love said they’ve offered to help.
Curtis’ staff announcements continued to trickle in Monday as Sen. Orrin Hatch staffer Ryan Leavitt was named Curtis’ deputy chief of staff and legislative director.
He has yet to receive a committee assignment and believes he has little chance of landing his first choice, a coveted Energy and Commerce seat.
That would have been a good fit for his district, he said, which includes parts of Utah and Salt Lake counties, as well as Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wasatch counties. But he's been told that you only get so many "asks," and he's going to save his for when it counts.13 comments on this story
He’ll work in Chaffetz’s old office for a maximum of one year. If re-elected — a campaign that senior transition adviser Danny Laub said has essentially already begun — he will then be entered into a lottery for open offices that staff say are likely to be somewhat lesser than the second-floor Rayburn office.
His City Hall office, meanwhile, will soon be occupied by Michelle Kaufusi, who defeated Sherrie Hall Everett in last Tuesday's election.
City Council Chairman Dave Sewell will serve as acting Provo mayor until early December, when the council is expected to name Kaufusi as mayor for the remainder of the interim period.