One Nation Under Debt

Published — August 10, 2011 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Fred Upton must balance devastated Michigan with cost-cutting


Fred Upton, grandson of the Whirlpool founder, has long been viewed as a moderate, voting with House Republicans most of the time but breaking ranks on such issues as the 2007 Iraq War troop surge, which he opposed. He also voted for the taxpayer bailout of his home state’s auto manufacturers.

However, Upton has become more reliably conservative since he took over as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which covers a wide range of issues: health care, energy, consumer safety, telecommunications and trade. He has been a frequent critic of the Environmental Protection Agency and has looked to strip the agency of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

Upton sharpened his rhetoric in making his case for the chairmanship— penning an op-ed in The Washington Times and doing an interview with Politico in which he railed against the “poisonous regulations” of the Obama administration. Upton also opposed a comprehensive climate and energy bill.

During the debt crisis, Upton lined up behind the Republican “Cut, Cap and Balance” framework, voting to cut the deficit while calling on Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution that would require a balanced budget. He said in an interview with a Michigan radio station that he would like to lower tax rates but would look to close many tax loopholes as part of an overhaul of the tax code.

But Upton was also gravely worried about what not raising the U.S. debt ceiling would mean for his state’s devastated economy.

“My home state of Michigan’s unemployment rate has stood at over 10 percent for 31 consecutive months; we need a plan that protects struggling families and job creators and allows for economic growth and job creation,” he said.

Upton has called for a repeal of President Obama’s health care overhaul, and in a statement Wednesday he promised health care would be a part of the budget and deficit reduction negotiations that will be the focus of the Super Congress.

“As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I know the exploding cost of health care is at the root of our long-term fiscal challenges,” Upton said in a statement.

Top PAC Contributors

  • Verizon, one of the largest telecom companies in the country — at least $30,000
  • AT&T, another major telecom player — at least $30,000
  • Pfizer, the major drug developer — at least $28,000
  • Exelon Corporation, a utility company and the largest nuclear operator in the U.S. — at least $28,000
  • Koch Industries, the energy giant run by Charles and David Koch, both well known GOP backers — at least $27,500
  • PACs gave at least $2.5 million to Upton’s campaign account and his TRUSTPAC since the start of 2009.

Revolving door

Statements on the Super Congress

  • “I am humbled by the trust Speaker Boehner and our leadership team have placed in us, and I stand ready to serve on the Joint Select Committee alongside Chairman Camp and Chairman Hensarling on behalf of all House Republicans.”
  • “Much more needs to be done to bring down health care costs, promote economic growth, and begin to tame runaway government. No one believes this is going to be easy, but working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both Chambers of the Congress, we will work to address our fiscal challenges and get America back to work.”

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