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Upton is retiring, but says "I would like to stay and be part of this"

From left to right, Montgomery, Upton and Dingell sit in a semicircle in a bright naturally lit space with yellow banner behind them
Rodney Jaren Coleman-Robinson
Fred Upton (center) was part of a discussion about civility in politics with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Western Michigan University President Montgomery in August of 2022.

Although he would like to be part of the next Congress, Upton says he has no regrets.

(MPRN) This moment would seem built for West Michigan Congressman Fred Upton. He’s a center-right Republican who’s represented southwest Michigan for a solid three decades. Over that time, he’s built a reputation as an affable colleague and an effective deal-maker. But earlier this year Upton announced he would not run for re-election. His old district doesn't exist anymore after Michigan redrew the maps and the state lost a seat in Congress. The Michigan Public Radio Network’s Senior Capitol Correspondent Rick Pluta spoke with Upton.

Below is transcript of the edited interview.

Rick Pluta: What do last week's results tell you about the state of the Republican Party?

Fred Upton: You know, our district's always been viewed as a swing district. In fact, if you look at the way that it's configured today, over the last 100 years, with only two exceptions, it's gone for the winner of the presidential ticket all but twice. So our focus, our secret sauce, as we say, has always been focused on jobs and the economy, not being a rubber stamp.

So what it tells me about this election is the focus by a good number of my colleagues really wasn't on the economy, or energy prices or things that people really care about. They got off on some some different issues, and frankly, Donald Trump hurt us, as well, I'm convinced that his entry back into the Presidential running arena, probably displaced some what otherwise would have been Republican votes and hurt the margin that we'll have come January 3rd when the new Congress convenes.

Pluta: Let's talk about that. You're a founding member of the bipartisan problem solvers caucus. With these close margins what role do you think the problem solvers caucus could play in the coming session?

Upton: The problem solvers caucus has been an important one for me, and will be even more important in the next Congress. So in essence, what this is, is 50 or 60 members equally divided between Republicans and Democrats in the House, that meet every week, we talk about issues where we can work together, and that focuses on the nation's problems.

So a couple of the issues that we were able to pass in the house - immigration reform, actually, which passed the house in the last two Congresses, but the Senate failed to take it up. It was our group that did an infrastructure bill. And of course, we remember Gretchen Whitmer's first campaign - fix the damn roads, we did that. The chips legislation, microchips, again, overwhelmingly passed in the Senate got stalled in the House, it was the problem solvers caucus that forced it loose.

And as you look at the next Congress [with] a margin of what will be probably just a handful. And as we talk, we still have a number of House races that are undetermined.

(Update: Republicans have won the 218 seats needed for a House majority)

So if you have 50 members of the problem solvers caucus committed to a certain issue where we can work together, guess what? It's going to pass. And one of the things that we decided to do early on as part of our founding - one, civility, you're not going to see us finger pointing at each other or screaming. But we also agree that we're not going to work to defeat members of our problem solvers caucus. We want to build trust among our group, it worked. And so you have some very strong relations between the Republicans and the Democrats that serve on this.

And frankly, to go along with what I've said, all my days, people, people at home, they don't care necessarily, if you have an R or a D, next to your name for Republican or Democrat, they want the job done.

Pluta: So as one of those 50 people in the problem solvers caucus in a tight margin Congress, how do you feel about leaving in this particular moment?

Upton: Well, I'd like to stay (laughs). I would like to stay and be part of this, but that wasn't in my hands. You know, Michigan lost another congressional seat. So you asked the question, do I wish I was still part of it? Yep. But it's out of my hands. It is what it is. I have no regrets. And, you know, life. The sun comes up tomorrow and life will move on. But in this case, it won't be with Fred Upton.

Pluta: That was outgoing Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton. Congressman, thank you for your time.

Upton: Thanks, Rick.