Michigan Congressman Fred Upton on his big for chair of House Energy & Commerce
HH: As I’ve said, we’ve been focusing on all the choices the House Republican conference has to make in the weeks ahead as the new Congress gets ready to assemble in Washington, D.C. One of the people who would like to lead the House Energy & Commerce Committee, that very important committee, is Fred Upton of Michigan’s 6th Congressional district. Congressman Upton, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
FU: Hugh, it is, I’m delighted to be on. And as a fellow Midwesterner, I’m glad you have split loyalties I see that you went to Michigan Law School, and you are an avid Buckeye.
HH: That is correct. And in fact, my very first question, if you’re chairman of House Energy & Commerce, will you propose a law that requires the Wolverines to play defense?
FU: Yeah. Believe me, how about just getting a new defensive coach?
HH: Well, that was not…
FU: I want you to know, my uncle was Woody’s doctor, his cardiologist.
HH: Oh, my goodness. Well, that’s quite a recommendation.
HH: Did he kill him?
FU: And my cousin is a cardiology professor at Ohio State. So we have very split loyalties within our family as well.
HH: You know, they’ve got that six year rule. If you’re the chairman, do you think that the Wolverines will be able to beat the Buckeyes once in those six years?
FU: We’re going to be ready in ’12.
FU: Let me just tell you.
HH: All right. Congressman, let’s get to this. First of all, are you a candidate to become the chairman of House Energy & Commerce?
FU: Well, I am. And Hugh, you’ve got to call me Fred. I am. We have this thing called term limits, six years. Joe Barton, the current ranking member, which means of course, top Republican, is seeking a waiver. And it’s unclear as to whether the Steering Committee will give him a waiver. But in the meantime, I guess you could say there are a couple of us that are actually planning to make a presentation with the belief that Joe Barton may not get that waiver.
HH: Now Earlier today, I talked with John Shimkus, and I want to ask you the same questions, because I think you two guys are generally recognized as the two leading contenders.
FU: All right.
HH: First of all, if you’re the chair, how quickly will a repeal and replace bill move through to the House floor in your opinion?
FU: I would like to think that it would happen very quickly. Now the leadership has made it pretty clear that they want to make a decision. You know, there’s a couple of committees that are involved here. But I’d like to think that we would move it very quickly. I would also like to say that we should move a bill to codify the Pitts-Stupak abortion language, literally within the first couple of weeks. The President said he supported that. Let’s put it into law, and not have to rely on an executive order. But as it relates to health care, and I’ve been a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal it from the get-go, why not move it right away?
HH: So if it gets up there to the Senate, does the House work enough just to get that repeal and replace to the Senate and let it sit there, and maybe get a vote at some point if Mitch McConnell can organize it?
FU: Well, I’d like to think that a lot of Democrats are going to look at the results from last Tuesday’s election, and they’re going to say you know, the Republicans are on to something. Just like 95 Democrats who signed a letter on net neutrality regulating the internet, all of those 95 members lost. Every single one of them, because every single Republican, I have to believe, is going to vote to repeal this health care bill. My sense is that there’ll be a number of Democrats that’ll vote with us, and maybe we’ll show that we have veto strength in the House. And that ought to sure be a signal to a number of the Senators on the Democratic side that something’s going on over there in the House that we’d better pay attention to.
HH: All right, Fred, you brought up Pitts-Stupak, so I want to follow up on something John Shimkus said. I asked him the differences between you two, and he said I’m a bona fide social conservative, and Fred’s not. Now Pitts-Stupak, of course, is a no public funding of abortion. What other issues would this committee chairmanship matter to social conservatives?
FU: Well, I am, I’ve always considered myself pro-life. This is an issue that I’d like…you know, I worked with Joe Pitts, and Bart Stupak, who is my colleague from Michigan for another couple of weeks. I supported this language when it lost in committee, and then again when it won on the House floor. But I don’t think there’s a heck of a lot of difference between John Shimkus and Fred Upton. We are both conservatives. We both care about the deficit. I have been on the committee longer than John. I’ve had the chance, the opportunity to chair the oversight subcommittee. I chaired the Telco Subcommittee. I’m now the top Republican on the Energy Subcommittee. John, I think, has got his first subcommittee now that he got this last spring, Health, a very important one. But I see things as we move forward, particularly if Joe Barton’s not the ranking member or the chairman, with a heavy emphasis on oversight. This administration has been able to escape quite a bit of examination and accountability by the Congress. That’s going to change. Darrell Issa is my friend. He’s going to do a good job from the Oversight Committee. Of course, coming from California, I want to pull apart the health care bill if we’re not able to repeal it, brick by brick. I think that’s a conservative issue that certainly John and I agree on. I was one of the leaders against cap and trade, and the carbon tax, even though that prevailed on the House floor by literally seven votes, switched for it to go the other way. We were able to get it stopped in the Senate. And of course, the death knell, as rightly so, is out on that bill. So I don’t think there’s a heck of a lot of difference between the leadership that the two of us would provide on the issues. I’ve just got certainly a little bit more experience, and John has been a good friend for a long time, and I look forward to having him be a good friend when this thing is over.
HH: That’s what he said. That’s what he said. It’s very interesting to hear both of you say that. And also, Fred Barnes, your neighbor in Virginia, extolling your praises last weekend on Friday.
FU: He is. He is. Fred is my neighbor. He’s a good guy, and his son went to school with my daughter.
HH: Well, you’re wrong about Fred being a good guy, but we’ll come back to that. Okay, cap and tax dead? Is it absolutely dead?
FU: It is. It is dead, rightly so. With the election of Mark Kirk, for sure, who admitted, I think, that it was a mistake when he voted for it. But with his election certified, he’ll be a member of the Senate early next week. That’s 42 votes that we’re going to have. And thank goodness John Kerry, they just couldn’t get anything done at the end of the day before we broke. And as a consequence, I am convinced, I wasn’t convinced in the spring. I am convinced for the last couple of weeks that it’s done. They’re not going to, the Democrats are not going to be able to do a lot of mischief, whether it’s this bill or any other. What we have to do, quite frankly, in this lame duck is to put all the pressure that we can to try and bring the spending levels, the continuing resolution which funds the rest of the government, that expires December 3rd, back down to 2008 levels, and take all that plus up of spending that’s built into the baseline out. And we can save maybe $80, $90 billion dollars if we can do that.
HH: Now if you are chairman, Fred Upton, will you subpoena, and this is an interesting Constitutional issues, will you support subpoenaing Carol Browner and the other czars for oversight purposes?
FU: You bet. Absolutely. Who are they accountable to otherwise? I mean, they didn’t have any type of Senate…I mean, you used to work in the White House. I actually think, Hugh, that you might have been there when I was there, ’81-’85.
HH: I was. Indeed, I was in the White House Counsel’s office there with the now chief justice, and David Waller, and all that gang.
FU: Yup. Well, you know, none of these czars when through the Senate confirmation process. We want to know what they’re doing, what they’re saying.
HH: And if the President says no…
FU: …and frankly, who is funding them.
HH: If the President says no, they’re White House staff, they’re covered by executive privilege, they’re like the counsel to the president and the chief of staff, what’s your assessment of that?
FU: Well, I’m not a lawyer. You are. But I would trust our counsel. I would like to think that there’s a way that we can force them to come up if we issue them a subpoena. After all, they are policy makers within the administration. Someone has to account for what they are doing there. And we’ll push every button that we can to see that it happens.
HH: More generally, Fred Upton, this need for speed, do you sense that that’s a widely shared value that the people that sent the new Congress there want to see action, and want to see it in a hurry, as opposed to the standard House calendar?
FU: I do. You know, as I talk to my people at home, and we’ve had lots of meetings, the first question, I want to say it was last week, was are you still going to bring up the bill to repeal health care. You said you would. Are you still going to do it? We have to show why Republicans are different than Democrats. And we have to…we confess, we do, mistakes were made in the last number of years when Republicans were in charge. And for me, what I think is the most telling thing that we can do right off the bat is a year from now, be able to tell our constituents that yes, the deficit is down, and so is spending. And if we can show that, that is a giant step towards proving the difference between the two sides, and hopefully, continuing the support that we saw last Tuesday, but also getting a lot of other people that were maybe not with us, to be on board as we look at the ’12 elections. And by keeping the issue of health care out there, something that despite what the President said the other day, you know, bad communication side, people know what that bill did. They also know that unlike the President’s promise that you can keep it if you like it, that’s going to be false for millions of Americans. And if we can keep that as a front burner issue, point out all the different flaws that are in there, and believe me, it’ll take…we’ve got a lot of pages to go through, that keeps it as an issue. The repeal is out there. And just like we saw Bill Clinton on the third try sign the bill to reform welfare reform, maybe we can get the President to agree that yeah, they made a lot of mistakes, and we can start pulling this bill apart.
HH: 30 seconds, Fred Upton, a self-serving question. If you’re the chairman, will you keep coming back on this and other shows like this one?
FU: I’ll be glad to, but better yet, I’d like to sit with you at the Horseshoe and watch one of these games, once we have a defensive coach.
HH: Boy, you are a glutton for punishment. Fred Upton of Michigan, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. We’ll talk to you again.
End of interview.