Opening Statement of Rep. Fred Upton Organizational Meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

September 8, 2011

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery and Submitted for the Record

Let me begin by recognizing our co-chairs, Senator Murray and Representative Hensarling, for their leadership in the few short weeks since this panel was named. I spoke to both of them throughout August, and appreciate their quick action to begin assembling a strong staff to coordinate our work, develop the rules package we will consider today, and take all the other logistical steps to allow us to hit the ground running.

I spent virtually all last month at home in Michigan meeting with my constituents and doing all the things we do: forums, county fairs, etc. Michigan is a great state - it's a place people were drawn to as they built their own American dream. Our state produced some of the world's greatest inventions and industries; it was an economic hub. And now, it is on the front lines of our economic downturn.

Michigan families have faced 32 straight months of double-digit unemployment. Manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and more jobs are at risk because of regulatory burdens and economic uncertainty. I don't think any state has more at stake than we do in Michigan, and my constituents know it.

They know this Committee was created to make the tough but necessary choices to cut spending and make reforms to put us on a more stable long-term fiscal footing. Removing economic uncertainty and demonstrating that we can reverse our long-term debt and deficit trends will help spur job growth.

If I heard one thing consistently from my constituents, it was this: the American people want us to succeed. They know the job of this committee and this Congress is not an easy one, but all of us - the 12 of us here and every one of our House and Senate colleagues - were sent here to do what's right for our nation. They are pulling for us.

Cutting spending is essential to jump-start our economy and prevent the kind of downturn we are being warned about. If we do not succeed, we risk further damage to our credit rating and a deeper erosion in confidence - both of which will worsen the cycle.

That's why this team is committed to success and began laying a foundation these last few weeks. We spoke on the phone and in smaller groups, and a major focus has been to review the work that has already been done to identify meaningful steps to reduce our deficit.  The Cantor-Biden talks, the Simpson-Bowles commission, even the annual CBO budget options framework - each of these offers options we can consider alongside any new ideas to begin taming our runaway debt.

I'm pleased to be here in the Energy and Commerce hearing room for our first meeting - if you'll allow me to use my home-field advantage, I'd like to speak for just a moment about some of what we bring to the table. The Energy and Commerce Committee has already voted this year to reduce the federal deficit by roughly $90 billion, and we're making progress on additional legislation that could take us well over $100 billion. And we're not alone.

We are working hard to cut spending - for example, we can eliminate nearly $60 billion in federal spending by reforming our broken medical liability system and we can save tens of billions more by simply wiping out some of the unaccountable spending in the health care law. But that's just the beginning. Others are focused on revenue - the kind of revenue you generate not with tax increases, but by harnessing our nation's great resources. For example, we can grow by expanding energy production, which will create significant new jobs while bringing in federal bonus bids and royalties, not to mention significant tax receipts from increased economic activity.

My goal for this committee is to begin by seeking common ground. Surely, there are areas where we can agree. Surely, we can identify areas where we are not spending taxpayer dollars wisely and where we can do better. Every taxpayer dollar we spend, every program on the books, can be viewed through the lens of job creation and fiscal responsibility. Are we spending the people's money wisely? Are we supporting job growth and economic certainty? Those are the questions, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find answers.