Given his not-exactly-conservative fiscal record, Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) was seen by many as a surprising choice to represent House Republicans on the deficit “supercommittee.” Some on the left saw him as a potential ally in their quest to raise taxes. On the other hand, others assumed his proximity to GOP leadership would prevent him from straying too far from the party line.
The liberal blog Think Progress has posted this video of Upton speaking at a recent town-hall meeting in Kalamazoo, Mich., and claims the congressman’s remarks provide a “glimmer of hope that he would be willing to divorce himself from Tea Party dogma to do what’s right” by vowing to protect current beneficiaries of entitlement programs:
UPTON: It’s critical … for people that are benefiting today from Medicare and Social Security, that they do not see benefit reductions. It’s awfully hard to tell someone … who might be 82 that they’ve got to go back to work because their benefits are going to be chopped. That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to let that happen.
The report also states that Upton expressed opposition to raising the retirement age for Social Security above 67, and said he was “not afraid” to consider the elimination of tax loopholes. “I don’t think anybody was happy to see that GE didn’t pay any taxes,” he said.
Again, Upton’s record on spending and taxes is painful for any conservative to read over, but I don’t mind defending him in this case. Frankly, I’m a little confused as to why liberals would see a “glimmer of hope” in his comments at all. When Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) introduced a budget that not only eliminated corporate loopholes in the tax code, but left current Medicare beneficiaries untouched and Social Security benefits completely untouched, they shrieked and moaned. Every single Republican appointed to the supercommittee voted for that budget, and many are on record in support of tax reform that would do away with loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code. Now, judging from his record, could Upton potentially abandon his party to be the crucial seventh vote for a Democratic-friendly proposal that includes significant tax hikes (and which would swiftly be defeated in the House)? I guess it’s possible. But I wouldn’t count on it.