Roger L. Simon

Notes for the Day After: Who Is Fred Upton?

Even if their victory is as big as predicted November 2nd, Republicans and Tea Partiers had better not waste one second gloating. Their work will have barely begun.

Complicating the matter, those two groups do not necessarily have the same goals. At this moment, it’s pretty clear who the Tea Party is. But who are the Republicans?

We will learn a lot about that quickly after the election. The House leadership, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, in whatever order, will have to choose committee chairmen. There are land mines.

One of those is Fred Upton. Who is Fred?  Well, he is the Republican representative from Michigan’s 6th who has served in Congress since 1987.  More interestingly, he is in line to be chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (not the Ways & Means Committee, as Eleanor Clift assumed.)

No matter there.  Yet more interesting is Upton’s voting record, which might be of concern to Tea Party supporters.

To begin with, Upton was one of the tiny number of Republicans to oppose the surge in Iraq. And it wasn’t just routine opposition.  Upton spoke on the House floor on behalf of the resolution opposing the increase of troops that eventually won the war.

And it’s not just that he was on the wrong side of history (others were); he has been on the wrong side of the economy as well. Upton has voted “yes” on bailing out Wall Street and “yes” on almost all Obama-Pelosi spending, including the $409 billion Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, which gave Obama $19 billion more than he asked for and contained $7.7 billion in earmarks. He also voted “no” on tax cuts, being one of only three Republicans to oppose Bush tax cuts back in 2005.

But wait, as they say, there’s more. Much more — especially in areas that relate specifically to the critical House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Perhaps most importantly, Fred Upton is a “climate change” true believer.  Although the congressman has no discernible science background  — he has a B.A. in journalism — he told the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment as late as early 2009 re: global warming, “I have said at nearly every climate change hearing that for me I don’t dispute the science. Right or wrong, the debate over the modeling and science appears to be over.”

Right or wrong, it’s over? Rep. Upton made these scientifically absurd remarks only months before the “Climategate” revelations and to my knowledge he has not revised them.  But anyone who could make such a statement in the first place should give pause as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  It’s also worth noting that Upton’s proudest achievement appears to be his co-sponsorship with Rep. Jane Harman of California of the bill banning incandescent light bulbs — a truly atrocious piece of legislation that has done little but encourage hoarding of incandescents by the those who loathe CFLs (including, I’m told, many self-described environmentalists).

It should also not surprise that Upton has been anything but a friend of mineral and oil exploration, which he has voted against on  several occasions.  Drill, baby, drill?  Not likely if he’s the chair. He’s closer in ideology to the Sierra Club than the Tea Party.

Coming out of the election, Members like Upton — who Wikipedia says is a good guy, and I have no reason to dispute that — present the Republican leadership with a serious dilemma.  Tea Party sympathizers would do well to pay close attention.