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U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart told state legislators Thursday that Republicans in Congress have been able to cut federal spending and the deficit and fight against some of President Barack Obama's policies, but more needs to be done to take power away from Washington.
"The fight goes on. It is a fight that will never end in our lifetimes because there are people who want to make Washington, D.C., they want to make guys like me more powerful," he said. "It's my absolute conviction that the people are better served when people like you have far more power than I do."
Stewart said that, in the three years Republicans have been gaining power, discretionary spending has fallen each year and the deficit has been cut by two-thirds. While the deficit is unsustainable, he said, it's moving in the right direction. And he said he is hopeful that more can be done with Republicans taking over the Senate this year.
He wants to see Congress reverse Obama's orders halting the deportation of some undocumented immigrants, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and give control of federal land to the state.
His Democratic opponent for Congress, state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City (formerly Luz Robles), told him it is not enough for Republicans to block Obama's immigration efforts. They should come up with their own immigration-reform plan.
Stewart essentially agreed. "There are very few people in Congress who don't truly recognize that our nation is better if we can do some meaningful immigration reform." He said that includes strengthening the border and expanding visas for agricultural and high-tech workers.
Stewart said he thinks the Utah Test and Training Range needs to be expanded the U.S. Air Force wants to add about 700,000 acres to the bombing range but he wouldn't support the expansion unless state and local leaders approve.
"The fact that you are a sovereign state, I recognize and respect that," Stewart told House members. "The last thing I want is a single additional acre of federal land. … We don't want any more wilderness. Not a single acre of wilderness."
Stewart, who was recently appointed to the House Intelligence Committee, also said he doesn't think the United States engages in torture, and that the interrogation techniques used by intelligence agencies have produced intelligence that has protected Americans.
Reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this story.