When it comes to the six-member GOP contingent that will serve on the new “super-committee” on deficit reduction, Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) is perhaps the most surprising selection, if only because many expected House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) to join Reps. Camp and Hensarling on the House delegation. Upton certainly has the credentials though. The 13-term congressman is a protégé of David Stockman, who served as OMB director during the Reagan administration, and currently serves as chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. However, Upton isn’t exactly a doctrinaire conservative, and aspects of his fiscal record certainly bear this out. For example, he:
- Was one of only three Republicans to vote against extending the Bush tax cuts (on capitol gains and dividends) in 2005.
- Was one of only nine Republicans to vote against an amendment to the 2009 stimulus bill offered by Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) that would have replaced the Democratic bill with a Republican version composed entirely of tax cuts.
- Was one of only eleven Republicans who voted for a 2004 Democratic budget resolution to make tax cuts subject to a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
- Voted for then-speaker Pelosi’s Omnibus Spending Bill for 2009, one of only 16 Republicans to do so.
- Was one of a handful of Republicans who in early 2009 voted against a GOP effort to claw back stimulus funding.
- Has voted multiple times to extend unemployment benefits, even when the extension has not been offset with further spending cuts.
- Voted along with just 24 other Republicans to support the Democrats’ “pay-go” legislation in 2009.
- Supported a huge spending increase in 2009 for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), financed through higher taxes. He also supported attempts to override vetoes from President George W. Bush on similar SCHIP-funding bill.
- Was one of only twelve Republicans who voted for an amendment by Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) that would have cut the defense budget by nearly $2.5 billion in 1995.
That said, Upton has maintained a pretty solid conservative record since being named Energy and Commerce chair in 2010, following leadership’s lead on most issues. Upton’s bid for that position was supported by the likes of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard. He has Paul Ryan’s backing, and both House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) have insisted that they would not appoint anyone to the committee who would consider raising taxes. Still, with a record like Upton’s, one could understand why conservatives might be a little nervous.