Chairman Upton's Remarks from Committee Organizational Meeting

January 20, 2011

Good morning.  I want to welcome the Members of the Committee, staff, and guests to the Organizational Meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 112th Congress.  The Chair will recognize himself for a few opening remarks.

I am honored that my Republican Colleagues have the confidence in my ability to serve as Chairman of this great Committee. I thank them for bestowing that trust and honor. I will not let you down.

I remember well years ago my disappointment when a friend by the name of Denny Hastert edged me to get on the Committee and then a few moments later, I edged out Bill Paxon and started off at the very bottom of the seniority ladder.

I'd like to say I have a pretty decent relationship with just about every member of this committee and a record of getting things done.

I've enjoyed a good working relationship with every Republican and look forward to your participation and partnership on a host of issues.

On the Democratic side I also look to a number of friends and remind all of you that when I came here in the minority, I always reached out to the majority, and when we became the majority, reached out to the minority and do so again to accomplish the People's business.

This Committee has a long history of accomplishing many and major deeds. I know the big shoes I have to fill following in John Dingell, Tom Bliley, Billy Tauzin, Joe Barton, and Henry Waxman's shoe.. I appreciate their genuine friendship and desire for our committee to succeed.

To my Democratic colleagues, let me say this: you know me.  I'm here to get things done.  It's our actions that matter.  Let's work together when we can.  The best of the best that comes from this Committee has always been bipartisan.

Finally, to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Get Ready.  Get ready to work hard.  Get ready to bring your ideas forward.  Get ready to do the work the American people sent us here to get done.

Over the next two years, we will focus on jobs.  We will focus on the economy.  We will focus on runaway government spending and our unsustainable public debt.  We will focus on securing individual freedoms.

We will conduct substantive oversight and doggedly pursue investigations wherever they may lead.  Where we find waste and abuse, we will eliminate it.  Where we find burdensome regulations that hamper our economy, we will repeal them. Where we find barriers to private sector job creation, we will remove them.  We will work as a team, never shying from the differences that divide us but always remembering that what unites us is much greater.  Simply put, we will uphold the great tradition and responsibility of this, the best committee in Congress.

With that, I would be happy to yield to Chairman Waxman for any remarks that he may have.

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That concludes our official business for the day.

The Chair will recognize himself, however, to set forth a number of new policies that we will observe this Congress.

It should come as absolutely no surprise to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that the 112th Congress is going to be about change.  Why?  America is $14 trillion in debt.  We are in the middle of the largest fiscal crisis the country has ever faced.  The national unemployment rate has topped nine percent for 20 consecutive months.  No one seriously thinks that we can continue on our current path of recklessness.  And that path ends right here, right now, in this Committee. 

This will be THE Austerity Committee in the House of Representatives.

I will follow five central policies in deciding what legislation is scheduled for consideration in Committee, and how I will view amendments offered to bills being marked up.

First, if you want to spend money on an entitlement, you need to pay for it with a mandatory spending reduction.  On January 5, as part of our House Rules package, we adopted a new rule governing floor consideration of new or expanded mandatory spending.  This "CutGo" rule is designed to cap overall entitlement spending by requiring cuts (not new revenue) for any expansion of entitlements.  The House Rule does not require Committees to obey CutGo, but we will.  If you want to mark up a bill that increases mandatory spending of any kind, or you have an amendment that will do so, you will need to reduce entitlements to pay for it or otherwise explain how it will remain revenue neutral.

Second, I will be observing a discretionary CutGo rule.  You may have a great idea for a new program; that's fine.  Just tell us how you will pay for it by reducing spending in another discretionary program.

Third, the Committee will no longer consider bills that authorize spending of "such sums as may be necessary."  My guess is that we have all sponsored or cosponsored legislation in the past that uses the "such sums" crutch.  Maybe the authors don't know how much something will cost - more likely, the authors are afraid to put a gigantic dollar figure on their idea.  And so we simply cede discretion to the appropriators.  Well, no more.

Fourth, every program the Committee authorizes or reauthorizes must have a sunset.  My leadership informs me that they will not allow bills to go to the floor that have either an indefinite authorization or one exceeding seven years.  That will be the policy of this Committee as well.

Fifth, our Committee budget has taken an appropriate and reasonable 5 percent funding cut over the last Congress.  We have a very aggressive agenda, but will need to do more with less.  For that reason, the Committee will no longer consider commemorative legislation.  We all support Motherhood and Apple Pie, and successful collegiate sports teams; I would submit that none of us needs a congressional resolution to prove it.  We as Members and our staffs have bigger and better things to do.

I look forward to working with Members on both sides of the aisle in implementing these policies.  We will all be better for them.