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tv   Rep. Fred Upton on Infrastructure Spending  CSPAN  December 3, 2021 11:05am-11:33am EST

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biden: constant contact with our allies in europe. with the ukrainians. my secretary of state. national security advisor have been engaged extensively. what i am doing is putting together what i believe to be -- will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for mr. putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do. but that's in playwright now. in play right now. [indiscernible] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021]
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[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy visit ncicap.org] >> live now to a virtual discussion with republican congressman, fred upton of michigan. hosted by "the washington post." watching live coverage on c-span. >> we are seeing a better unemployment rate. it's gone down. what do you make of those numbers? what do you think is the solution to make sure that people are entering the job force again after the pandemic? mr. upton: i was surprised when i heard those numbers this morning. a lot of questions about exactly what do they mean because the unemployment rate did come down. as i talk to my employers back home in southwest michigan, there is not a one -- you pick the field from autos to appliances, i talked to one of my sheriffs last night. he had this terrible shooting earlier this week in michigan. i was checking in with him. he said they need 40 people. the truck washers. pretty simple job. i think you need a long
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broomstick and power washer, maybe a brush for the tires. there are yard signs for people looking for truck washers starting at $18.05 an hour i have school superintendents driving school buses because they can't find school bus drivers. it snowed, when i cam back to washington this week back from michigan, even m dot is looking for hundreds of snowplow drivers. i never heard those things before. you go to any restaurant, they all have signs, help wanted. they curtailed their hours, they are closed multiple days. you would think that we ought to be at full employment. why is it that only 210,000 jobs are created? there is a little fudge listening to the radio this morning coming in. could change over the next month or two. we'll see. i think we are all stunned by
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it. not enough people coming back to the work force when people are needed. that's one of the reasons we have the supply chain issues we have. truck drivers. everything. >> i know looking into next year there are a number of pieces of legislation that many of those democrats, republicans want and-to-try and make sure, supply chain, bringing people back to the work force. hopefully that would help. one of those bills that could create jobs is that bipartisan infrastructure bill. you voted for it. can you tell us a little bit about why, you broke away with the party, a lot of backlash for doing that. this is typically a bipartisan issue. it's not necessarily a controversial one. tell me a little bit about why you did that and why you thought it was important to vote for your district? mr. upton: a couple things. i love the column today in the post where it talked about don young today and how he was chairman of the transportation committee. i think the first bill that he
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moved through and i was once on the transportation committee, had $417 votes -- 417 votes. it was clearly bipartisan. this bill really was bipartisan from the get-go. governor larry hogan invited a number of us problem solvers, caucus members in the house, up to his residence back in april. we had a 24-hour summit. we had 25, 30 members. not only the house, senate. number of governors. not only personally there, but on zoom as well. larry summers gave us some economic numbers that we talked about the need for infrastructure. all which is an issue in michigan. our governor ran on one theme, fix the damn roads. when she won two years ago. we first determined what's infrastructure? what is the traditional infrastructure? roads, ports, broadband, energy security, the things that we end up with in that bill. we came to a conclusion that
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ought to be it. we shouldn't be doing the broader package, build back better plan, it wasn't named back then, massive spending. we limited it to that. then we also came to the conclusion that unlike the covid packages that passed under both trump and biden, it simply added to the debt, we were going to pay for it. any new spending we were going to pay for. and we did. we came up with a pay-fors. rob portman, republican senator of ohio, former budget director under bush, really good guy, was on the super committee. i was with him back then. really good friend. he helped negotiate that. and they went through a long senate discussion adding to cracking a variety of different amendments. and at the end of the day, of course, in august they passed it 69-30. i've gotten some death threats. more than a handful. but one of the worst ones that
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came in was a gentleman, i can't say gentleman, guy from south carolina, and my immediate response was, you know, his senator, president trump's best friend in the senate, lindsey graham, lindsey voted for the bill when it passed 69-30. had we taken it up then in august, most observers think we would have had 40 to 60 republicans that would have voted for the bill. trump was against t he said he had a better bill. his bill was more expensive, no pay-fors and got people to get off the wagon to get this bill done. it was held hostage then by the progressives in the congress. they tried to get the build back better plan attached to this. ultimately failed, which is why they voted against the bipartisan bill at the end of the day. for us, people that helped write it, the actual blueprint, particularly in the problem solvers caucus, we won't get
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a -- we knew it had to pass. again, in my district, everyone knows about flint, michigan and the lead in their water line. the very next week i was out with a crew in my district replacing lead waterlines. this bill has $15 billion in it to try and help communities across the country. but whether it's ports or bridges, highways, broadband, all those things we considered as real infrastructure needs and needed to be done. which is why it ultimately passed by a really good vote in the senate. and a decent vote in the house. despite the opposition that was really put against us when we got it done. >> you mentioned that. you all very much in your conference committees, we have been reporting out the fact that a lot of those very pro-trump members within the caucus were just targeting you all.
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the 13 of you who voted on that infrastructure bill saying that republicans need to stay together at all times. i know leadership allows many -- many of you to vote your conscience. do you think that leadership is doing enough given the fact that even this week we have seen republicans on twitter going after each other. is that a distraction to all that you all are trying to do? who can really make sure that those temperatures are tamp downed -- tammed down? tamped down. mr. upton: it is a distraction. i looked at my background. i never thought i would be a member of congress or elected official. i worked for a guy named ronald reagan for a couple years at the white house. republican president, a democratic congress. he got things done. and the biggest accolade you could say was when he ran for re-election he won 49 states. the most american probably can't
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name the one state he lost, because it was mon dale running for minnesota which is the only state he lost. he won california. he won new york. saw larry hogan's comment last week that trump lost to maryland by 33 points. he wasn't waiting for an and doresment. he got things done. when i came to congress i said i'm going to try to get things done, too. as a republican i'll confess i never thought we would be in the majority because for my lifetime we weren't. it wasn't until 1994 that the gavel changed. but all my days i talk about being bipartisan. i did that when i was chairman of the energy and commerce committee. i have done that with virtually every bill introduced. and i can tell you a lot of stories, we don't have enough time for some of those. that's what the american public wants. they don't care, i say this, i say this at home they don't care if you have an r or d next to your name for republican or democrat. they want you to work together.
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as part of our problem solvers caucus we take a civility pledge. we also take a pledge we are not going to work against each other. that's the only way you build trust. we had a meeting, back to in-person meetings now, wear masks for sure. we are back to in-person meetings, probably had 30 members of our 60 group that were there, maybe a little more. we had someone told him was off the record. we had a lot of questions. social media is a huge issue. the very positive discussion. very constructive. but you look around that table, none of us would work against anyone in that room. politically or bomb throwing or anything else. that's what i think the american public wants to see. we can disagree on the issues. we do even within our own caucus. doesn't mean you have to be disagreeable. when you have the bomb throwers on both sides that are really
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nasty, that's unfortunate because that, frankly, gives congress a bad name. >> can i ask you, what are you or your fellow colleagues trying to do to make sure that those bombs don't define the republican party? some are arguing because they are bomb throwing has not been tamped down they do feel empowered to keep doing it. mr. upton: it does. in this age of -- have to raise so much money to win re-leakses, you have the universes out there looking to try and help, that certainly contributes to it. i'll tell you a funny story. i had never talked with my colleague, omar. all the days she's been in congress. i know who she s i know she knows who i am, too. i'm usually on the republican side of the aisle. she was attacked as well.
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she released some of the tapes of people going after her earlier this week that were very, very nasty. i was looking for her on the house floor. i couldn't find her. so i asked my good friend, debbie dingell, where does she usually sit? she wasn't in the normal place. debbie brought her over to me. i said, you know, i don't know you all that well. we never talked. we both had a mask on. and i said, you can't see my smile, but i'm smiling behind this mask. but i just wonder if the same person that went after you publicly, again she released the transcript, used the same words against me. and i had a monogram on my shirt. my initials. you know what they are. i said, they use more than just my initials in going after. i wonder if it's the same person from south carolina. went after you. she started laughing.
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we had a good conversation. you got to sort of put it in that light. on the seriousness of stuff, i'm really afraid someone will get hurt. we had this terrible school shooting this week in michigan. we have had some shootings in my district. in talking to some of the victims and survivors and my law enforcement folks. i was once on the education committee. i can remember the hearing we had with the columbine survivors. that was the first big school shooting i can remember. there wasn't a dry eye in the place. and we know that kids, i'm a dad, kids can't learn if they don't feel like they are in a safe environment. and is one that until covid visited literally a school every week i have been in office. there's been a big change in security from when i was a
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student to what they are today. and seeing the live shooter drills. the day before parkland i was at one of my high schools in kalamazoo. had a live shooter drill while i was there. i was back there the next week, meeting with the student council and others, law enforcement and debbie dingell came to my district, it was bipartisan. i went to hers as well. just talking about what we could do as leaders in the community to try and stop this stuff. if you watched any of the video interviews, including this morning, i was watching cnn this morning, mike bouchard, the sheriff in oakland county. i know him. he lives on the other side of the state with me. statewide candidate. he was president of the michigan sheriffs association for a while. solid guy. well respected. thank god his troops were trained and they were there and
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prevented what could have been far worse. i tell you it's a lot different today than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. as kids go to school. no parent wants to not have their son or daughter come home safely. >> a theme of what you have mentioned is how difficult it has become to work with a lot of members just because of the political toxicity on different issues. you mentioned several democrats that you work with. i do want to pivot to look at covid. that is a place where when it comes to response you have been working with fellow democrats to try and get more help to your state, which has just been constantly seeing new cases. a rise of new cases in michigan. when you talk about needing more resources, yesterday, over on the senate side, a number of republicans were saying, you know, i don't want to support
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the government funding bill, which tends to not -- it has become more political. should to say. used to not be that big of an issue. they said they weren't going to support it because they wanted to vote and make sure that vaccine mandates, that there is all these different mandates aren't put in place. is that helpful? even so, that amendment failed. it's still kind of a position of the party. saying we shouldn't have all of these mandates. we shouldn't necessarily -- could be going against what you're asking for. just more resources here and there in your own state and help from the federal government. mr. upton: a couple things. first of all i'll go back a step. our delegation generally works pretty well together. whether it's protecting the great lakes. the when we started covid we all worked together, republicans and democrats, trying to get more p.p.e., personal protection equipment. all of that. we have a lot of conference calls.
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tragically michigan now is one of the worst states. with these new incidences. i talked to my health providers myself every week. i get a count, a daily count from the counties i represent of the people vaccinated. first dose, second dose. we are working on seeing who has been boosted. the education side, when we did the 21st century cures bill, that was my big bill when i chaired energy and commerce, we expedited 21st century cures. expedited the approvals of drugs and devices. coupled with $45 billion more in n.i.h. funding, research funds. then went back to my early days with newt gingrich had me as the lead republican with john mccain to double the money for the n.i.h. we passed that bill. we passed the 21st century cures bill, 392-26. literally the last bill president obama signed into law.
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because we did that, we were able to see pfizer, moderna, j&j actually get their emergency use authorizations and production of the vaccine months early. maybe eight to 10 months earlier than it otherwise would have been. which as we know saved hundreds of thousands of americans. but we have to do a better education effort. i looked at my numbers again this morning for my counties back home. i think we have made two counties that are over 50% in terms of -- let alone where the booster is. when i talk to some of my hospital administrators earlier this week, it's like 90% of the folks in the hospital, almost 100% on ventilators weren't vaccinated. the evidence seems pretty apparent. we have to do a better job of educating folks to let people know what's happened. there was an early problem with
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the vaccine. and we corrected this. we introduced, diana degette who has been my partner on 21st century cures, we have introduced h.r. 6,000, just in the last week or so, and we are calling it cures 2.0. one of the things it does, it requires when you do these drug trials, you have to make sure that the minorities are included to make sure that diversity issue is well represented. that wasn't the case, i think, in the covid vaccine trials. as a consequence, particularly folks of color were petrified about getting that shot. i think we have done a lot to correct it. i look at shots in my minority districts and it seems like they are doing a little better than other areas in my district and around the state.
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we correct that in cures 2.0. i have not been one to mandate a vaccine. i think we have to do a better job of educating folks, particularly now with this new variant out there. listening to the news this morning, i think it's perhaps three times more contagious. we don't know yet whether it's more deadly or not. we'll know in the next couple weeks. but we have to share that evidence and let people know what the consequences are and make sure that we have the availability of that booster shot and to make sure that the people get their first and second one it is they haven't gotten them. >> congressman, we only have a couple minutes left if you can believe t do i want to squeeze in two other questions in here. first and foremost, of course, the government averted a shutdown yesterday. i notice you did vote against the continuing resolution, which would fund the government until at least mid february.
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i wanted to know why. and also wanted to ask about the debt limit that is something that is coming up for the house to consider next week. what do you think the solution should be on that front as well? mr. upton: a couple things. i knew the government wasn't going to shut down. i don't know if you see me walk the hallways, i went over to the senate accurately predicted what was going to happen. part of it was, particularly in this case, none of the democrats talked to the republicans. they didn't share the language in advance. i talked to a number of our house republicans, they didn't know how long it was going to be. i voted for the last c.r., continuing resolution, four, five, six weeks ago. it was under the same scenario. it was a straight c.r.. no shutdown. a lot of republicans did vote for that, including myself. but in the interim nothing
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happened. no discussion with any republican. no asking for help. can you help us. do you need anything? there is no communication between the majority and minority. from kay granger, the top republican on the appropriations, mario diaz-balart, like a brother to me, none of those folks felt that they were in the loop at all. so part of the no vote was to send a signal. hey, you want to work together. you want to follow what president biden said in his inaugural. work together. start using the phone or talking to people. that just didn't happen. that was why. but at the end i think if we had a government shutdown there would have been a number of us that would have changed votes to make sure you didn't have a shutdown. that wasn't a fear. only one republican voted no in the house. on the debt ceiling, that's
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traditionally party and power. no one likes to do this. let's face it. but it happens. as a consequence the party in power has to usually provide the votes. i can remember -- i voted for them, i voted against them. majority and minority pretty easy to look at that record. when they raised the debt ceiling back in october, i guess it was, the last until mid december, mitch mcconnell, i think then said, we are not going to help you anymore. you have to do something. what is the do something going to be? as you know insiders know, to avoid 60 votes in the senate, to actually have something passed by a majority versus the filibuster 60 that you need, one of the vehicles you can use is called reconciliation. and it was part of the budget act of 1974. and there are a couple of
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reconciliation vehicles that are on the shelf that chuck schumer can use to do a debt ceiling that only needs 50 votes instead of 60. at the end of the day my bet is that's what he's going to do. they'll do that. they'll pass it in the senate. they'll send it to the house. the votes are there on the democratic side that would pass that increase so we don't go through -- i don't expect that would happen. >> before we go, i did want to ask, you mentioned that you want to stay in congress. the reason you're there is because you are able to work together. because you -- congress should be able to do that. i got to ask, do you think that that is going to be the climate next term? are you going to announce whether you are going to run for office again? mr. upton: a couple things. we never announce the year ahead.
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in michigan, frankly, we don't know what our districts will look like yet. we lose a seat. we lost a seat in 2012, but leading up to that, we had republican, state senate, statehouse, republican governor, as well as supreme court and we lost the seat then as well. my district is like a straight square. southwest michigan. border indiana to the south. illinois to the west. it's what we call and r-2 district. it's a diverse. diversity is our strength. we lose a seat and we have now a panel that's doing this. a nonelected panel. and i think if they had been even sixth grade class president that would have disqualified them from participating. virtually no political experience at all. clearly they don't. that's my own editorial comment.
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at the end of the day we don't know what the districts will look like. there is a good chance that my home county will get split up. it will go from lake michigan to lake erie. 200 miles long and 20 miles wide. who knows. i'm not moving. i got a lot of family. we do well. we'll decide once we know what the district looks like. what the environment is. i am not afraid to vote my conscience on issues. frankly, i wish we had a little bit more of that across the country. >> congressman, thank you so very much. that is all the time that we have. appreciate you joining us today. mr. upton: thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy visit ncicap.org] >> if you want to see past content and new interviews coming up. go to "washington post" live.com. thanks for tuning in today.
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>> coming up shortly on c-span, house republican leader kevin mccarthy is scheduled to hold a press briefing on the legislative agenda. when that event gets under way we'll have live coverage here on c-span. right now, a discussion from this morning's "washington journal." "washington journal" continues. host: suzanne bonamici joins us. thank you for giving us your time this morning. guest: glad to be with you. mr. mccarthy: good morning. another week. and a few more democrats answer the question about retirement. but this week was a little different. it's not just any other democrat announcing retirement. it was a committee chair. i look in this room, a lot of you have been here for a long time. you know it'di

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