Daily Star photo/AARON MUELLER U.S. Rep. Fred Upton fielded questions and comments from area residents at a public listening session in Niles Tuesday. It was part of his "listening tour" throughout his district that features 18 stops in three days.
Daily Star photo/AARON MUELLER U.S. Rep. Fred Upton fielded questions and comments from area residents at a public listening session in Niles Tuesday. It was part of his "listening tour" throughout his district that features 18 stops in three days.

Archived Story

Niles residents grill Upton

Published 11:28pm Wednesday, March 23, 2011

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton got his wish when his “listening tour” of the district made a stop in Niles Wednesday morning.
In a standing-room-only Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce room, Upton, R-Mich., was grilled on federal spending, the national debt, health care, energy policy, environmental issues and military involvement in Libya.
Several audience members questioned why Upton opposes the new health care reform law.
“I’m 100 percent behind the Obamacare program,” said Niles resident Diane Bass. “Why not just work to tweak it like you do to all other plans?”
Four Flags Chamber of Commerce President Ron Sather had a different view.
“It’s not the role of the government to tell me whether I have to have health care,” he said.
Upton, who voted to repeal the health care law in January, said the decision should be made by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“As you may know, two federal judges have ruled it unconstitutional,” Upton said. “I’m for sending it to the Supreme Court right now. Let them decide. Get a quick argument and a verdict this fall.”
He also said there are “a number” of health care reforms he does support.
The House voted to repeal the health care law earlier this year but it could not pass the Senate.
But discussion at the town hall meeting wasn’t just on health care.
Dr. Tom Sweeney, a Niles resident, said the federal government needs to consider all options to reduce spending.
“Everything needs to be on the table,” he said. “We have to cut money.”
Several other audience members had similar concerns, like future generations being saddled with massive national debt.
Upton said Republican representatives will work to cut spending, but he said it will take time since the biggest parts of the budget deal with entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
One audience member brought up a House bill Upton sponsored that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
He defended the bill by saying Congress should determine regulations, not the EPA.
Several people expressed concern with the U.S. attacking Libya, calling it “reckless” and “insane.”
Upton’s only response was to ask for a vote by audience members raising hands for those opposed to American military involvement in Libya and those in favor of it. The vote appeared evenly divided.
Questioned about taxes, Upton said he supports tax reform that would close loopholes and make the system simpler. He also defended extending the Bush tax cuts.
“If we would have allowed those tax cuts to expire, it would have meant a tax increase on a lot of businesses. And that is the last thing we need with an unemployment rate in this county at 12 percent,” he said.
Another issue brought up by many in the audience was domestic oil drilling, which Upton said he supports.
“We consume 20 million barrels (of oil) a day in America. We produce 7 (million),” he said. “We ought to be using our own resources.”
Upton, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, also said he will continue to support safe nuclear energy and wind and solar power.
More than 60 people packed into the lower level of the Chamber of Commerce building for the town hall meeting that lasted about an hour and a half. Upton also made stops in Edwardsburg and Dowagiac on Wednesday.

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