Congressional Republicans discuss infrastructure, bipartisanship

Infrastructure is the key word of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. With the Biden Administration hoping to pass a large scale infrastructure bill in the coming months and members of both parties hoping to give the country a facelift, the committee will have a lot of work ahead of them.

Two Republican members of the committee, West Michigan’s Rep. Fred Upton and East Georgia’s Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, discussed the committee’s goals going forward at the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Care Conference.

Upton said of the workload coming for the committee in the near future:

“We’re going to be tackling infrastructure. Of course, on the energy side we had some hearings as it relates to the Texas big storm they had a few weeks ago. And we’re going to be doing healthcare again.

I’m also working again on a revised version of the 21st Century Cures Act.”

The 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in 2016. The bill expedites the process necessary for drugs and medical devices to receive approval for use from the Food and Drug Administration. The bill was supported across party lines when it was introduced.

Upton pointed out expansion of broadband internet as a key part of infrastructure. He said the committee had been working on expanding telehealth services even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused its use to spike last year. Now, expanding telehealth by increasing access to broadband internet is a priority for them.

Carter also mentioned strengthening preventative health programs as a part of the committee’s goals. Doing so may be a challenge, though, due to the nature of work in congress:

“It’s tough to get legislators focused on preventative care, and all fairness to them, a lot of what we do is just putting out fires. [It is] just reactionary. We [should be] more aggressive, and if we were looking more to how we can be preventative [and] keeping people healthy, as opposed to just reacting whenever they get sick. That’s something that’s kind of hard.”

Upton also heralded his committee for their ability to be bipartisan. Members of the committee often work across party lines to find solutions to issues, according to Upton. As a member of the committee, Carter appreciated bipartisanship as well. The current infrastructure bill being discussed by congress seemed to have no input from Republican legislators, similar to the American Rescue Plan which he also opposed:

“First of all, the fact that it’s $1.9 trillion and less than 9% of it was used for healthcare or for COVID related issues, that  tells you right there the main part of the problem. The second part is that it received no Republican input nor any Republican support whatsoever, that again shows you how it was a purely partisan bill that was nothing more than the pay off the supporters of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It’s very unfortunate.”

He also criticized the bill for using unemployment numbers as a part of the calculation for how much funding each state received, as states like his own — which did not institute as strict COVID-19 protocols as others — ended up receiving less funding than their peers.

 

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Both Upton and Carter, among every other Republican in the House and the Senate, voted against the American Rescue Plan. Both say they are open to supporting Biden’s infrastructure bill though they have issues with the $2 trillion price tag attached to it. Upton also takes issue with the corporate tax rate being raised from 21% to 28% to pay for the bill. The U.S. corporate tax rate was set to 21% in 2017 from 35% by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was passed by a Republican-controlled congress. Both Upton and Carter voted in favor of the bill in 2017.