Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Closings and Delays

With "fiscal cliff" deal done, Upton says focus now on debt ceiling and tax reform


West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton he would have preferred “a grand bargain” rather than the deal reached last week that averted the “fiscal cliff.” But Upton voted for the agreement, in part, because it brings certainty in the tax code. He says it’s the first of a three step process. 

Congress will soon vote on raising the debt ceiling. Upton says the House will want spending cuts and reforms in order to increase the debt ceiling. He says any vote to raise the debt ceiling with “no strings attached” won’t pass the House. Upton says the sequester, which includes across the board cuts, will likely remain in place.

The deal approved last week delays those cuts for two months. Upton says the third step in the process would be tax reform. He says the tax system is long overdue for an overhaul. Upton says the tax system should be simpler and fairer, and he says the corporate tax rate should be lowered while loopholes should be eliminated. 

The deal which averted the “fiscal cliff” came right at the deadline with Congress taking the unusual step of holding session on New Year’s Day. But Upton says things could be different this time. He says the House, Senate and the White House may race to get their proposals out to the public. Upton acknowledges that would be unusual. But he says all sides know that new deadlines are coming. 

Upton says reaching a deal on reducing the budget deficit will have to include reform to entitlements - Social Security and Medicare. He says benefits will be preserved for people who are currently receiving them. But Upton says the aging population and rising costs make reform necessary for younger workers.

The across the board cuts or “sequestration” includes cuts to defense spending. Upton says while the United States needs a strong defense, it will be another area to look for savings. Upton says he wants to bring troops home from Afghanistan, which would save billions the United States is currently spending. 

Extended interview with Fred Upton

Upton says words can’t express his feelings about the shooting at a school in Connecticut shortly before Christmas. But the Congressman says he’s not sure if anything could have stopped it. Upton says he is looking forward to seeing the report from Vice-President Joe Biden. Upton, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says that panel will likely hold hearings on mental illness. He says all factors should be part of the debate, including violent forms of entertainment and studying what states have done to prevent gun violence.

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.