Congress is back for the 112th session, and the post-election calls for working together are the hot thing around Washington. Both parties say they want to get along on taxes, spending cuts and most importantly, the health (Obama) care bill. That’s right: In two short years, Republicans and Democrats say they hope to stand hand-in-hand claiming victory for the American people.
I don’t buy it.
One needs to only look at one of the GOP’s newest stars, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), for why both parties’ shared goals end at (maybe) agreeing to sit with each other at the State of the Union address later this month.
Full disclosure: Upton is my home district’s congressman, from the sixth district of Michigan, in the southwest section of the state. I voted for him when I was first eligible to do so in 2004, and Upton’s rise within the party after so much loyal service coupled with a simultaneous erosion of his core beliefs is amazing.
Upton’s recent voting record is overwhelmingly negative. Since Obama’s election, he has voted with his party on most issues. These include the health care bill, the 9/11 first responders bill, the food safety bill, the new START treaty, tax cuts and unemployment benefits; Upton has now become the point man on undoing Obama’s primary achievements from his first term in this current session.
Undermining Obama’s policy and decisions includes three complex undertakings: ripping away funding from agencies created by the health care bill, taking away the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce any regulation related to climate change (or dismantling the agency entirely) and fighting the Federal Communications Commission over its new rules on network neutrality.
I don’t see many hints of working together, just more plans on working to ruin the other guys’ party by eating their cake and puncturing their balloons. Upton was once a hero to his community because he never did anything to stir up anger, was accessible and generally did the right thing. Ever since he became chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee though, his rhetoric has become all Republican talking points instead of his unique voice and logical decision-making.
With regard to the EPA, Upton wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the new regulations on greenhouse gases were an “unconstitutional power grab” and argued for Congress to step in and overturn the laws. This coming from a man who wanted both tighter regulation and heads to roll last year when an oil spill struck southwest Michigan, contaminating the Kalamazoo River!
On the repeal of health care, he told the House Rules Committee recently, “I don’t think we need an open rule,” A rule would enable Democrats to offer amendments to the repeal bill. Upton reported on “Fox News Sunday” that a vote would occur before the president’s State of the Union address. Upton never used to be the company man, but the whiff of more power led him to become a John Boehner lapdog. He didn’t always side with Republicans, voting in favor of the stimulus bill, TARP and other big government legislation in the past. Offering a voice of reason used to be his appeal, but without that, the rational for his position on Capitol Hill is moot.
On network neutrality, he has added destroying the new rules to the committee’s list of goals because he sees them as being anti-business. Furthermore, his stock holdings in all the telecommunications companies affected by the rules is certainly unethical. Couple that with insurance and energy companies being his largest donors in the 2010 election cycle, and we have a true Republican. Making deals with the devil may work in Washington, but with the political environment so toxic, I wonder if even he can survive.
Upton is virtually unopposed each time he has to campaign, and perhaps that is finally starting to eat away at his honesty. An honest politician is only as good as his word, and lately Upton’s word has been “undo.” Although he managed to anger both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh in the process, betraying both your political legacy and the legacy of your roots in lower Michigan is the kiss of death for a lot of Midwestern voters. Sorry, Fred, I don’t vote for Judas.
Kevin Bunkley is a graduate student in the School of Continuing Studies.