News from Representative Upton


May 14, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dear Friend:

Quote of the day (maybe a few days late?)..."If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” 

Ain’t that the truth (with apologies to my former SJ English teacher, Miss Webster).

Today my report comes not from my kitchen table or side porch but from 35K feet on an American Airlines connection back to D.C. for votes Friday.  The first picture is entering the Grand Rapids terminal all dressed up with my blue mask....yes, a pretty much empty airport. No problem going through the TSA line after I lowered my mask to confirm my try at a beard was long gone (it really was a combination of Mother’s Day — note quote at the top — and Squawk Box appearance earlier this week) and my “mug” matched the driver’s license.  Still need to find a barber.Image

Despite signs everywhere in Grand Rapids and O’Hare that masks were required, neither my flight attendant nor passengers in my aisle were wearing them. Yes, they showed them to me when I politely asked, but emphatically put them back in their backpacks. That made my decision real easy regarding my return trip – I’ll be on the PA, OH, and IN toll road come Saturday with my EZ Pass.  Refer to the quote at the top.  I counted about 15 folks on my flight from O’Hare on a 200-person plane - half of them are in the Congress and all have their masks on. 

Today’s constituent picture includes one from Allegan who writes, “We are concerned about the things that are being requested in the stimulus bills. They do not seem to be protecting American taxpayers nor their jobs.  Please continue to watch out for us and future generations...On the brighter side of trying to make lemonade while being bombarded with lemons, I have been crocheting baby blankets to donate to our local Positive Options ministry.” Thanks for making a lot of folks’ day!Image

The House goes into session at 9 AM on Friday and the first vote series will occur at about 10:30 to vote on the “Rule” establishing the framework of the debate and will likely deny any and all amendments that could be offered to the 1,800 page bill and a bill allowing for “proxy voting”.  It is called a “Closed Rule” — meaning closed to amendments — and the Rule will be written by the House Rules Committee, which contains nine democrats and four Republicans. In essence, the Speaker gets her way as she appoints all nine of the Democrats.  On the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus agenda this year included is a push for additional changes in the House Rules which would force all of the House Committees to reflect the true ratio of the House membership with respect to all the Committee ratios.  The Democrats have about 56% of the House, yet 77% of the House Rules Committee – making it a pretty powerful weapon that the Speaker has in her pocket.  

Perhaps adding to her power is a change in the way we in the Congress vote.

I’ve always had a voting card...a little bit larger than a driver’s license with my picture and a ‘chip’ in it, allowing me to vote in boxes at the end of the aisles in the House Chamber.  I can vote in any box with a push of a yea or nay button with the card inserted in the “reader”.   The vote is then registered on the giant wall above the Speaker’s rostrum with either a green “Y” or red “N” next to my name in lights with all our names alphabetically listed.  And, under current House Rules, only I can register that vote.  Years ago, successful ethics charges were brought against a Pennsylvania Member who was in PA with somebody else voting for him in D.C. Cameras in the chamber are focused on each of the voting machines to ensure  their accuracy, and I always double-check the vote to make sure it registers correctly.  This Rules change vote tomorrow would allow other Members to cast one’s vote using a proxy (proxy votes were once allowed in the Committees but the “Contract with America” back in ’94 ended that practice...I remember once someone in my committee voted “Present” by proxy — talk about bad).  Part of the dynamic of any legislature is the networking, relationships, and ability to discuss the particular bill or amendment in person.  And of course, the underlying bill may have changed with the adoption of amendments.  This would remove that element of full understanding and frankly strengthen the hand of the majority’s leadership by imposing proxy voting. I will be voting no on that bill Friday.

Usually the vote on the Rule is fairly partisan. Today, Republicans will rightly complain about no amendments to a $3T bill that did not go through any committee process.  And, the Speaker and her team will “whip” her side to likely prevail, viewed as a procedural vote.  Frankly, the absentees may decide the outcome if not everyone is able to return but the betting should be that the Speaker with a 30 vote margin wins.  Once the Rule is adopted, debate is always equally divided between the two sides and votes on each of the two bills will then begin with special procedures in place to not only clean the House Chamber itself, but vote by alphabet sequence so that not all the 435 Members will be on the House Floor at the same time.  That process will consume about 90 minutes for each vote.  

The vote should be relatively close on both bills and certainly should be the lead national news story once complete.  I will fill you in on the day tomorrow from my desk on Capitol Hill — including some of the amendments that we tried to offer but that the Rules committee denied.   I never knew any of this in 9th grade civics or college poli-sci. Thought it was all like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Be safe and sound.  I will look out for deer on the drive back (once hit one in PA, and two in MI)....


God Bless,

Fred Upton

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