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Michigan Ties May Play Role on Super Committee

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
From left: Rep. Dave Camp, Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. James Clyburn and Rep. Fred Upton arrive for the first meeting of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction last week.

Sources who follow Michigan and Congressional politics think Camp and Upton’s state ties could push them one of two ways: The lawmakers could give the super committee’s Republicans more credibility in rejecting Obama’s suggestions because they have already sided with the president on occasion, or the duo’s ties could make them more likely to play ball with Democrats.

Either way, it may be a difficult balancing act. Upton, for example, faced a primary challenge from the right in 2010, defeating a tea party candidate 57 percent to 43 percent. That, and a desire to obtain the Energy and Commerce gavel, forced the centrist-minded Upton to move rightward. In 2008, his district also broke 54 percent to 46 percent for Obama. More recently, Upton faced a contentious crowd at a town hall in August where constituents yelled “Bring back jobs!” as the veteran lawmaker calmly tried to continue his conversation on the economy.

Camp, who heads the Ways and Means Committee, has been getting attention back home this week as House GOP leadership has sought to take $1.5 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which aims to help car manufacturers retool plants to build more energy-efficient vehicles. GOP leaders have proposed using funding for ATVM to instead pay for disaster relief funding. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan-based Chrysler Group applied for
$3.5 billion through the loan program. The proposed cuts would eliminate about half of the program’s remaining funds.

Neither Upton nor Camp would tip their hand as to how they might square their responsibilities to both the House GOP Conference and their ailing state.

“This committee was established with a clear goal — that goal is reducing the deficit, which will create some economic certainty and help spur the job creation we need and get the country back on track,” Upton said in a statement provided to Roll Call. “Michigan has faced 32 straight months with unemployment in double digits, and the current rate is about 11 percent — we can’t afford to lose any more jobs because of unsustainable debt or the threat of higher taxes and economic uncertainty that keeps job creators on the sidelines.”

Camp’s office was equally vague. “Given more than two years of double-digit unemployment in Michigan, it comes as no surprise that Camp has said that he will view the final product of the joint committee through the prism of job creation and ask, ‘Will these recommendations help or hurt job creation now and in the future?’” a Camp spokesman said.

Bill Ballenger of the political newsletter Inside Michigan Politics observed, “I don’t see how they come out of this as heroes unless the super committee pulls a rabbit out of a hat and comes up with some way to figure out how these cuts can be made in a way they get a lot of credit for.”

“I think the opposite is more likely, where you might hear moans and groans from tea party types ... who are already suspicious,” he added.

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