Upton sees guest worker program still coming

Published 2:06 pm Friday, July 6, 2007

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC – "Even though the Senate rejected" the immigration reform bill, "I think you're going to see pieces of it come back – not only on border security, but also aid to our farmers," U.S. Rep. Fred Upton said Thursday morning in Dowagiac. "Now we'll have to do it piecemeal."
Congress has four weeks to accomplish something before August recess.
Cass County's congressman is working on an energy bill, of which one piece is light bulbs. The five-year farm bill expires at the end of September. There is the balance of appropriations bills.
"As part of the farm bill, we may, in fact, see a guest worker plan for agriculture," Upton predicted. "Our farmers need a guest worker program that works, from asparagus in the spring to apples in the fall. They can't get their crops in without a migrant workforce. If they miss one season and can't pay their bank loans, living paycheck to paycheck, they're done. Operations will cease and fruit and vegetables will come, for the large part, from overseas. We'll lose the market altogether," the St. Joseph Republican told the Daily News.
In Upton's estimation, "The Senate bill was seriously flawed. They bit off more than they could chew. I was one who accurately predicted months ago that the Senate would not be able to pass it. They just tried to cram in too much and it got too big," a camel back broken beneath "too many straws. "Realistically, you're not going to round up 11 million or 12 million people and send them back. Some countries won't allow them to come back. China won't take a person back," even though that was the origin of 40 percent of American consumer goods last year.
More than 40 percent of recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Administration, including all the toys recalled this year and 79 percent of toys last year, involved products from China.
Its volume of consumer goods has tripled since 1997. Recalls have also included 450,000 tires in June, cat and dog food after 16 pet deaths and toothpaste with a poisonous ingredient.
"Cuba also has a different standard," Upton said. "Mexico won't take people from Honduras. It's a tough issue and the Senate didn't recognize all the pitfalls. It couldn't even get 50 votes to proceed."
"Part of the (war) funding resolution we passed in May was that funding would continue through the fiscal year Sept. 30," Upton said about the Iraq war. "The troops actually starting going in in January, but the full complement of the extra 30,000 troops didn't get there until mid-May. They needed a couple of months" to determine if President Bush's "surge" was working.
"The President is going to give us a progress report on the benchmarks that we asked for beginning this month. Where the Iraqi government is in terms of progress being made. As an example, the oil revenue sharing plan which has been tied up for years. I saw a report (Wednesday) that the cabinet signed off on, but the Kurds don't like it. My belief is that there is oil throughout Kurdish, Sunni and Shi'a regions of Iraq. They export about $56 billion in oil, so this is how they would share the proceeds" and what would be applied toward reconstruction.
"It's been stalemated and a lot of pressure has been put on Malaki to get this thing moving. They were about ready to go on a four- to six-week recess. It was going to be eight weeks. They've got to show progress for sure. We're anxious to hear from (Gen. David) Petraeus as well when he comes back to Washington in September. He'll be subjected to a lot of briefings and to hearings in both the House and Senate. September is like, is it working or not? If it's not, what's plan B? That's where we're at."
"There is growing speculation in the military that Bush will try to pre-empt the Petraeus testimony by announcing a gradual drawdown from 20 to 15 combat brigades later this summer," Joe Klein writes in the July 9 Time magazine from Baghdad, where he met with Petraeus in June.
"I haven't heard anything about any withdrawals," Upton said. "The bipartisan Baker-Hamilton report called for regional cooperation. The President initially dismissed it, but is now beginning to embrace it. I think he missed an opportunity. We passed a funding amendment last week to add a million dollars to reconstitute the Baker-Hamilton commission" for an updated report.
"We're losing 100 a month" as "the violence level continues to go up," Upton remarked. "The deaths in June were a little bit less than May, but more than April. Yesterday we had another car bomb with 18 civilians killed. The Iraqis have quit giving the number of civilian dead. We lost two Americans. We've gone from liberators to occupiers, which is a bad thing. That's one of the reasons I fought building a new $500 million embassy there. It should be done soon. There have already been a bunch of electrical fires inside and it's not even open, suggesting some shoddy construction. This thing is as big as 80 football fields right in downtown Baghdad."
Upton said Vice President Dick Cheney's contention that he is not part of the executive branch is changing because "there was going to be an amendment that was going to require him personally to replace all of the civics textbooks across the country if he insisted the vice president was in the legislative branch rather than the executive branch."
Upton spent his week off for Independence Day making the rounds of his district.
While in Dowagiac Thursday he dropped by the Daily News, stopped at Caruso's and visited with City Manager Dale Martin, whom the congressman met at City Clerk Jim Snow's 50th wedding anniversary party June 23. He also took in a Chicago Cubs game.
"This year we have already had 605 recorded votes," Upton said, "which is generally how many we have in the course of a whole legislative term. We've in essence been having votes Monday through Friday since January, so I only get home on weekends. We're on target to get all the appropriations bills done in the House for the August break. Our problem, of course, is going to be the Senate. We've done seven," to none for the upper chamber.
"We have a couple big ones to do," including transportation, defense, labor and HHS (health and human services). We'll probably have a farm bill and an energy bill, which I've been working on. A new assignment for me is the Energy Subcommittee, which I was not on before. I've had a bipartisan amendment on each of the appropriation bills that requires that the federal government only purchase Energy Star lightbulbs, which will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The savings are $30 a bulb. There's not a larger buyer of lightbulbs in the world than the federal government.
"Light bulb companies aren't really enthused about it because they like selling light bulbs that have to be replaced every five or six months, but that's going to change. In fact, as part of the energy bill we passed out of committee last week, we're going to change the standards on light bulbs, which haven't changed in 100 years. It will make the 100-watt incandescent bulb not only obsolete, but they won't be able to sell them after 2012.
"I've met with some of the top experts and they've already developed new hallogen lights and some other things which are going to come on the scene, which will save consumers 65 billion kilowatts a year. That's the equivalent of 80 coal-fired electric plants, just from light bulb savings."
"Our energy needs are going to increase worldwide 50 percent by 2030," said Upton, who believes in global warming. "China, India and the U.S. as well. We have to do a much better job on conservation. Light bulbs are a big area because they're terribly inefficient in terms of using electricity, let alone their replacement costs. It's $14 billion less in energy costs. Energy is a pretty big issue with gas prices. Oil went back over $71 a barrel today."
Once a week, Upton rides his bike seven miles to work from his Virginia home and plans to continue even in winter.
Of the mood of the electorate, "We know Michigan's having a tough time with jobs, unemployment and mortgage foreclosures," the congressman said. "Particularly compared to other states, which are doing much better."
Arkansas, where Upton's sister lives, saw its largest tax cut in history go into effect July 1, halving the state sales tax shoppers pay on groceries from 6 percent to 3 percent.
Buoyed by a strong economy and a $919 million revenue surplus, the Arkansas General Assembly approved a dozen tax cut measures totaling more than $300 million over the next two years – $253 million from the grocery tax cut alone.
It should save a typical Arkansas family of four about $234 annually on its food bill.