West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton says the United States needs tax reform, but it will have to wait for at least the next Congress
Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp had been a leading proponent of comprehensive tax reform, but has announced he's retiring. Upton says when Montana Senator Max Baucus left the Senate to become Ambassador to China, it wasn't a good sign for tax reform. The Saint Joseph Republican says Camp and Baucus, a Republican from the House and a Democrat from the Senate, had worked on the issue together. Upton says Camp's proposal for tax reform may be a starting point in the new Congress.
When asked if the departure of Camp and Republican Representative Mike Rogers shows that it's tough to get meaningful legislation done, Upton says "it's always tough, and it's probably tougher today than it's ever been before." Camp is Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Rogers leads the Intelligence Committee. But House Republican rules put term limits on committee chairmanships. Upton says people who serve in Congress make a lot of sacrifices. "I'm not playing my violin, it comes with the job." Upton says he's sorry to see Camp and Rogers leave the House, but says he wouldn't be surprised to see both men get back into the political arena at some point.
Congress returns to session this week. During an interview on Friday (April 25th) Upton discussed other issues:
Upton who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee says more hearings will be held on General Motors' recall of vehicles for ignition switch failures. He says staff is now pouring over documents from GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Upton says Congress is trying to "connect the dots" about what the automaker told federal regulators and what happened as a result. The Saint Joseph Representative says there could be revisions to the TREAD act which was passed after problems with Firestone Tires on Ford vehicles. Upton says even if General Motors is technically shielded from liability by their bankruptcy filing in 2009, "I'd like to think that they as a corporate citizen would want to reach out and help the people that were injured in a financial way."
Allied Paper Landfill
During a hearing on the Allied Paper Landfill last week (April 22nd) an Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager said the EPA's final plan for cleaning up the site would come before the end of the calendar year. It previously was scheduled for this summer. Upton says the delay may be good news because it shows the EPA is listening to the concerns of people in Kalamazoo. He says the fear has been that the cheapest cleanup option would be the final decision. State Representative Sean McCann was quoted in the Kalamazoo Gazette's report on the meeting as saying that it felt like "the process is designed to wear us down." But Upton says "this issue's not going away, if we have prevented them from doing what they initially said, I think that's a good thing."
President Obama signed legislation to boost federal funding for pediatric cancer research. The bill started in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which Upton is the chairman of. He says it was paid for by taking away the taxpayer subsidy for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The bill is named for Gabriella Miller, who died of an inoperable brain tumor. She led a campaign urging Congress to help fund research for childhood cancers. Some House Democrats say sequester cuts have left the National Institutes of Health with less money for medical research. Upton says he supports increasing the funding for the NIH. He says the Energy and Commerce Committee will launch a major effort this year to find faster cures for diseases. Upton says that effort will include federal agencies, research universities, and companies in various medical fields. He says the initiative will aim to streamline the process, create jobs and find cures for many diseases.