Upton: ‘We’re in a hell of a mess’

Published 2:56 pm Monday, August 29, 2011

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton made a stop at the Cass County Council on Aging to talk about the economy on Monday. (Vigilant photo/JOHN EBY)

“We’re in a helluva mess,” Cass County’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, began Tuesday after lunch at the Council on Aging.

Upton, who circled through Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties Tuesday after putting in a 16-hour day Monday which ended at Paw Paw Village Council, was also asked about term limits, why ethanol continues to be subsidized and “who is the most qualified person to lead us out of the economic mess we’re in?”

“We’ve got to work together,” he sidestepped that question. “This is not a Republican meeting, either. Folks want us to work this out. They’re more than sick of the tired political rhetoric that’s sometimes used in the attacks that may get you on one of the networks. Maybe that makes for some listeners, but we’ve got to put the needs of the country first. That really is the design of this commission. We’re probably going to make some unpopular decisions. The status quo is not acceptable. If our committee (The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) fails, the bond rating may drop again. That’s the last thing our country needs.”

One constituent urged Upton to be a statesman rather than a politician.

The St. Joseph Republican recalled pulling over into a Walmart parking lot to take the call from House Speaker John Boehner.

“We chatted for probably 20 minutes,” Upton related. “At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘Well, between you and the fence post, you’re on my list of three for this new joint committee on the deficit.’ I sort of swallowed because I didn’t know I’d volunteered for this … he said he was making the announcement in a couple of hours. As I’ve been home the last couple of weeks now with Congress adjourned, I know, and you all as Americans know, too, that we’re in a helluva mess … It’s not something I asked to do. I’ve got a lot on my plate already as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. We have until Thanksgiving to come up with an agreement among the 12 of us. That means you need a minimum of seven votes of the 12. If that is done — and I like to think that it will be — then Congress, the House and Senate, will have to take up that agreement without amendment, and it cannot be filibustered, before Christmas. If it passes the House and Senate, and the president signs it, that’s the way that it reads.

“But if any of those things fail — the president doesn’t sign it or either body rejects it or we don’t get an agreement of at least seven of the 12 members — then we have across-the-board cuts. It’s very severe to try to get us on the path to reduce the size of the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. It hits defense and non-defense. About the only thing it doesn’t hit is benefits for Social Security and veterans. It’s a really tough punch which, hopefully, serves then as an incentive for us to come to an agreement to get the nation out of the rut we know we’re in. There will be a lot of tough decisions. We’re anxious to get started. We’ll be looking at Simpson-Bowles, the progress made between (President Obama), Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid and the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of six senators. We’ll be looking at all of that trying to get some sense of where we ought to go as soon as we come back to Washington.”

Asked about the disparity between “10 percent of the population having 80 percent of the wealth, which seems to predict that the U.S. could easily become a Third World country. Why do the wealthy need tax cuts?” Upton replied, “We’re on the edge of another recession, many businesses are taxed as individuals and that is the question we’re going to be looking at. To me, the last thing we want to be doing is raising taxes on businesses that are trying to hire people.

“When our Michigan legislators removed the Michigan Business Tax the person who was probably most upset about it was Gov. Mitch Daniels because he just lost an incentive to lure Michigan businesses down to Indiana,” Upton added.

Upton said he doesn’t want to see a deadlock along party lines.

“You saw partisanship early on, but at the end, a majority of both the Republicans and Democrats voted for it in both the House and the Senate. The proof is in the pudding,” Upton said. “Aug. 2 was the day and that’s when the Senate voted. I like to think it could have happened earlier. Republicans and Democrats need to keep the country first to move us out from under this terrible cloud that threatens the economic stability of our great nation. (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) making it back for her first vote since being shot was a magical moment, something I won’t forget.”

Upton expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court didn’t hear arguments this summer on the constitutionality of health care reform since various courts have ruled against mandating purchase of insurance.

“The losing side is always going to appeal,” he said. “It’s either going to be a 4-4 or 5-4 decision, but I don’t know which side they’re going to rule on. Once that’s made, we can figure out what flaws we need to fix in a bipartisan way. Or, if the whole thing crashes like a house of cards, come back in a bipartisan way and figure the reform that we clearly needed had nothing happened at all.”