UPTON It is.
NJ Is this a repeal-and-replace kind of scenario? You’ve already said you oppose the cap-and-trade approach; you’re saying that EPA should not regulate carbon through the regulatory process. Should there be any explicit federal policy to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. as a matter of national policy?
UPTON Look, I support greener energy. I think there ought to be incentives. I’m a strong supporter of nuclear power, which has no greenhouse-gas emissions. There are a number of different things we can do that I think promote nuclear power. I’ve supported wind and solar; I support clean coal, natural gas—a whole number of different things that I think bring a cleaner energy standard to the United States, and without greenhouse-gas standards set by EPA.
NJ One last question on carbon: If not cap-and-trade, if not EPA regulation, the third alternative that people have talked about is a tax on carbon emissions that would fund a reduction in payroll taxes or some other tax.
UPTON No. It’s a nonstarter. With the Congress we have today, it’s a nonstarter.
NJ Beyond dealing with the EPA issue, do you anticipate pursuing either comprehensive or piecemeal legislation that addresses energy supply and access?
UPTON We need offshore drilling, that is clear. On the nuclear side, the French, the Japanese, they can go start-to-finish in four to five years; why does it take us 10 to 12? We’re going to find out why. We’re going to call in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, we’re going to ask some of those questions. We have to deal with the issue of high-level nuclear waste. A number of countries recycle that, which is a good thing. Why aren’t we doing it here? We’re going to pursue, maybe, legislation to look at that as well, knowing ultimately you still need a Yucca Mountain, but why not recycle the waste, too.
NJ You have vowed to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s network-neutrality decision with a resolution of disapproval. How do you expect that to proceed?
UPTON I’m not quite sure when it’s going to be introduced, if it is. My philosophy on net neutrality is this, and I think George Will has said it right. Most Americans think the government doesn’t work very well and the Internet does. Why are we putting the government in charge of the Internet? That’s exactly what this proposal does. It will be tested in the courts. I’m not a lawyer, but I bet the FCC loses. We’re going to use every tool in the toolbox to stop it. This is not just a nasty letter. The Congressional Review Act is probably the most likely vehicle to be used.
NJ You said “every tool in the toolbox.” What else is available to try to block this if that CRA resolution doesn’t pass the Senate?
UPTON We’ve got a couple different ones, and we’ll see next week when we take up the [continuing resolution] on the House floor. Unlike the last two years, where we were denied having an amendment [that said], “No funds shall be used,” that is a possibility as well.
NJ This week, the FCC announced a new policy for the Universal Service Fund, shifting its focus from expanding telephone service to extending broadband service to rural areas. The FCC has said it does not believe that it needs congressional authority to make this shift. Do you agree?
UPTON No, I don’t agree that they have the sole right. I do believe this is an area of common ground where Republicans and Democrats, as well as Congress and the administration, can work together on a better policy. We have seen the Universal Service Fund increase from $2.8 billion collected from consumers to almost $10 billion today. Our view will be that this fund needs to be capped, it needs to come down. Let’s figure out the right uses of where the money ought to be spent. My thinking is that we could get a bipartisan bill to help the FCC along as it relates to this issue.
NJ Some communications companies are asking that broadcasters be required to vacate some of their spectrum to make it available for wireless broadband. What do you think of that?
UPTON The spectrum issue is an area, again, that I think we can find some common ground. We’re going to look for additional devices, but we’re going to need more spectrum. We’re going to have some hearings about that, particularly about what’s called the D-block. The president indicated that maybe some government users might want to vacate some of the spectrum, but we had a problem with that a few years ago.
NJ What will you have to accomplish over the next two years in the areas under your purview for you to feel that this congressional session was a success?
UPTON I want to create a better environment for jobs. Government doesn’t create the jobs, we help businesses. We have to have the right legislative policies that do that. On telco issues, spectrum is a big issue, especially as we look at 4G and beyond, trying to get the government out of the way and let consumers win. On health care, we are going to have to work together with our leadership to talk about the replacement pieces that we stand for that really do help businesses and families have greater access to affordable health care. We’re going to do a lot of oversight. I chaired the oversight subcommittee at some point. Our job is to find fraud and abuse, and I haven’t found anyone who’s for it yet, and we’re going to find it, identify it, and do our best at trying to fix it. And on energy, of course, it’s what is the plan that can help our industries produce our power with rules that are livable, that really makes us a factor as we look to compete with the rest of the world.
This article appears in the Feb. 12, 2011, edition of National Journal.