Meet Kate Upton’s Uncle
How a moderate Republican retooled for the Tea Party era.
Jul 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 43 • By MICHAEL WARREN
But back in November 2010, in the wake of the GOP’s historic electoral victory, some conservatives started sounding the alarm on Upton before he had even assumed the chairmanship. FreedomWorks, Dick Armey’s grassroots operation, launched a website called DownwithUpton.com, saying Upton’s record is “full of votes for more regulation, more spending, and more taxes.” Rush Limbaugh said it would be a “tone-deaf disaster” if Upton were tapped as the committee’s chairman. “This is exactly the kind of guy Republicans need to avoid,” Glenn Beck warned on his radio show, “or they’ll destroy themselves.”
Several pointed to Upton’s support for the 2007 law that effectively bans the incandescent light bulb in favor of the more expensive “green” compact fluorescent bulb—some even reported he coauthored it. During the chairmanship election, Upton reversed his position and promised to repeal the law. When I ask him about the hated light bulb ban, he bristles.
“Now wait,” Upton says. “This was the [California Democrat Jane] Harman bill, passed on a voice vote. President Bush signed it. And the industry supported that. And I, you know, and as we prepared for the chairman race, I said publicly, lots of times, we’re going to readdress this.” A repeal of the ban was attached to a couple appropriation bills, he adds, but, like most of the committee’s work, died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
That sort of Washingtonese explanation probably offers little solace to those who looked at Upton as an insider, a go-along-to-get-along Republican just itching to cut a deal with Democrats. Upton’s primary opponent, former state representative Jack Hoogendyk, calls Upton a “squishy moderate” and says he’s “not convinced” the congressman got the message of 2010. Others say that’s just not true.
“There’s an old expression,” says Tim Walberg, a fellow Republican congressman from Michigan. “You use the levers of power that you have.” Upton’s voting record, Walberg says, reflects the sentiments of his mildly Republican district, but as Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Upton is using his considerable power to represent a much more conservative conference. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, thinks Upton’s critics are looking at the wrong statistic. Says Norquist, “You don’t ask a pitcher what his batting average is.”
Michael Warren is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.