The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation this evening to boost travel and tourism in Southwest Michigan and communities across the country. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, has been a strong supporter of the bill – H.R. 4450, the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 – which reauthorizes Brand USA, a non-profit, private-public partnership dedicated to increasing inbound international travel to the United States. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that enacting H.R. 4450 would reduce the federal deficit by $231 million during the next decade. The bill, which was approved by Upton’s committee last week by a voice vote and today by a vote of 347 to 57, now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.
Upton took part in a Michigan Tourism Roundtable discussion in South Haven, Mich., earlier this month to highlight the importance of the travel and tourism industry to Southwest Michigan’s economy, as well as to point to the tremendous potential to grow this industry by attracting more overseas visitors. Tourists in the six counties (Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren) that make up the Sixth Congressional District in 2012 spent $977.8 million, which supported 9,323 jobs and a $203.2 million payroll, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Upton spoke on the House Floor today in strong support of H.R. 4450. The full text of his remarks as prepared for delivery follows:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 is an important bill that will boost jobs and the economy by promoting the U.S. as a world-class travel destination. The bill reauthorizes Brand USA and increases program accountability and transparency.
In 2013, Brand USA generated an additional 1.1 million visitors to the U.S. and $3.4 billion in additional spending at U.S. businesses. This increase in spending triggered the creation of more than 53,000 American jobs and $2.2 billion in payroll.
Brand USA delivers all of these benefits to the U.S. economy at no cost to the American taxpayers.
Earlier this month, I held a roundtable in my district to discuss the tremendous benefits that tourism and this program contribute to the Southwest Michigan economy. The benefits, just in Southwest Michigan, are impressive with nearly $1 billion in spending supporting over 9,300 jobs and $200 million in payroll annually.
I would like to thank Mr. Bilirakis and Mr. Welch for their leadership in spearheading this bipartisan bill and Mr. Terry for moving this bill through the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee. I urge all my colleagues to support this important jobs bill.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and I yield back the balance of my time.Read More
U.S. Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today voted for legislation – H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 – to hold the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accountable for its actions against American taxpayers. Overall, this legislation reduces funding for the IRS by $1.48 billion compared to the previous fiscal year, and includes a number of provisions to stop the agency’s targeting of individuals based on their political beliefs. H.R. 5016 is the seventh appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives this year (the Senate has yet to pass one) and was approved by a vote of 228 to 195.
“Congress has a responsibility to hold accountable those who mismanage taxpayer dollars and abuse the authority with which they have been entrusted,” said Upton. “The IRS is an agency plagued by reckless abuse and an unwillingness to be forthright with the American people and their elected representatives. This legislation provides the IRS with the necessary funding to perform its essential duties, but forces the agency to tighten its belt and refocus on serving the American people.”
Among the provisions in H.R. 5016:
A prohibition on a proposed regulation related to political activities and the tax-exempt status of 501(c)(4) organizations. The proposed regulation could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations and inhibit citizens from exercising their right to freedom of speech, simply because they may be involved in political activity.
A prohibition on funds for bonuses or awards unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration.
A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.
A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights.
A prohibition on funding for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.
A prohibition on funding for the White House to order the IRS to determine the tax-exempt status of an organization.
A requirement for extensive reporting on IRS spending.
A funding prohibition on destroying IRS records in contravention with the Federal Records Act.
Upton joined fellow House Members this May in voting to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena to provide testimony regarding the agency’s targeting of conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.Read More
Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today voted for a bipartisan agreement – H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 – to ensure federal highway and mass transit projects continue to receive adequate funding through May 2015. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that without congressional action the Highway Trust Fund will be depleted by August, bringing important transportation projects across the country to an immediate halt. H.R. 5021 also reauthorizes federal highway and other surface transportation programs that are scheduled to expire on September 30.
H.R. 5021 passed by a bipartisan vote of 367 to 55 and now awaits action in the Senate.
“These critical investments in our highway infrastructure not only support good Michigan jobs, they set the groundwork for future economic growth, trade, and job creation in our region,” said Upton.
“Ensuring the Trust Fund remains solvent is necessary to keep our roads safe for motorists and commercial traffic alike. Congress and the White House must now work together in a bipartisan fashion to find a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism to modernize our crumbling infrastructure.”
H.R. 5021 includes three major provisions to stop the looming Highway Trust Fund shortfall in a budget-neutral manner, without increase taxes: (1) Pension Smoothing ($6.4 billion) - Employers are required to make certain payments to their pension plans based on an average interest rate. When interest rates remain low for an extended period of time – as they are right now – it costs employers more money. This provision provides employers relief from artificially low interest rates; (2) Customs User Fees ($3.5 billion) - Under current law, the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to collect passenger and conveyance processing fees and merchandise processing fee. The current authorization expires after September 30, 2023. The bill would extend the authorized period for 1 year; (3) Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST) ($1 billion) - The LUST Trust Fund is financed by a 0.1-cent-per-gallon gas tax and is used to pay expenses incurred by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and States for preventing, detecting, and cleaning up leaks from underground petroleum storage tanks. It currently has a balance of more than $1.4 billion and is expected to continue to grow.
Remarks As Prepared
Thank you so much – happy to be here talking about one of the most exciting public policy issues in America: our energy abundance.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my M.O. as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. I got my start working in the Reagan administration where I learned it does not matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done. That’s how I operate my committee – every good idea is welcome, and we do better when we work together.
We have plenty of bipartisan success to show for it. In the 112th Congress, 88 Energy and Commerce bills passed the House, and 40 of them were signed into law. In the 113th Congress, 62 Energy and Commerce bills passed the House, and 15 have been signed into law. And we’re heading into the homestretch. All but a few of these bills we’ve moved have had bipartisan support.
It’s no secret that I’ve been disappointed by the Senate’s failure to follow our lead and get many more bills signed into law – especially on energy. I’m going to keep on reaching out, welcoming new ideas, and working to get the job done – and today, we’re going to talk about how we can get that job done, particularly when it comes to energy.
I am often asked about America’s energy policy. Do we have one? Is it time to change?
I’d like to share my vision for what America’s energy policy is today, and what it ought to be tomorrow.
But first, let’s remember our energy past. Perhaps you remember hearing these words: “The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained.”
Those words were spoken by President Carter in 1977. He predicted that we could lose our nation’s economic independence. But earlier this month, as we celebrated America’s independence on the 4th of July, we welcomed the real prospect for energy independence with news that by some estimates, the U.S. is now the world’s biggest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.
In fact, we have more energy than any other nation and according to EIA, we produced enough energy in 2013 to meet 84 percent of the country’s demand – a remarkable turnaround from 2005, when we hit a low of just 65 percent.
You heard yesterday from Daniel Yergin about the vast potential for American energy production and the resulting economic investment and growth.
It’s a new era of energy abundance, and we need to usher in a new era for energy policy.
I call it the “Architecture of Abundance.” Here’s what I mean: we need to construct a whole range of tools to take full advantage of our energy abundance – we need to better connect these resources to the people who need them. And we need to do it in a safe and responsible way that protects the environment. It’s about building infrastructure, yes, but it’s about much more.
Our new energy vision can be understood as five distinct but clearly related policy concepts –the five “pillars” to construct this new architecture.
Pillar I: Modernizing Infrastructure
First, let’s look at energy transmission and distribution. It’s time to modernize and update our energy distribution infrastructure. This will allow us to keep up with burgeoning supplies and better connect new sources of energy with all American consumers.
We can do this with targeted changes to federal laws that provide certainty, predictability and fairness – in other words, we’ll take politics and obstruction out of siting new energy infrastructure and bring back accountability to pipeline permitting agencies.
We have already started – let me give you some examples. We’ve already passed H.R. 3, a bill that would finally approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We’ve also already passed H.R. 3301, a bill I wrote with Democratic Representative Gene Green from Texas to make sure energy projects with our North American neighbors are never again caught in Keystone-style gridlock. And we’ve also passed H.R. 1900, a bill to restore predictability to natural gas pipeline permitting by setting shot clocks and clear processes for project review and approval.
Building new energy infrastructure is essential, and there is much more work to be done.
Pillar II: Maintaining Diverse Electricity Generation
Our second pillar is diverse electricity generation. We all need and reliable power, and everyone – families, schools, businesses, hospitals, manufacturers – everyone benefits when it costs less to keep the lights on.
That’s why we’re so concerned about the administration’s aggressive approach to limit and undermine critical baseload sources of generation like coal and nuclear.
We’re going to continue to press for answers on how EPA and the states plan to implement the new climate rules. We can also support a diverse portfolio by enacting targeted changes to federal laws to make sure all sources of electricity generation can compete in the market.
We have begun offering ideas in this area as well – let me give you some examples.
We’ve already passed H.R. 3826, a bill to make sure EPA’s new power plant rules are achievable in the real world, and to put Congress back in the driver’s seat on the rule for existing plants. In the last Congress and again in this one, we’ve approved H.R. 2218, a bill to put a more sensible, state-based regulatory system in place for coal ash recycling and management, and we’re also going to keep pressing the administration to follow the law when it comes to nuclear waste.
Again, these bills are just the starting point when it comes to our electricity supply.
Pillar III: Permitting a Manufacturing Renaissance
Our third pillar has to do with permitting – not just for energy projects, but for manufacturing.
Manufacturers and other energy intensive industries need the confidence to make multi-billion dollar, long-term investments – including new foreign direct investment – in this country. To do that, we should make it easier to plan for new or changing regulatory requirements.
One example of a bill to improve the permitting process and welcome this new manufacturing renaissance is a bill that cleared our committee just last month. H.R. 4795, the Promoting New Manufacturing Act, is pretty simple – it would increase transparency and require timely rules and guidance for certain air permits. This is another area ripe for future action with new challenges from GHG permitting and ozone on the horizon.
Pillar IV: Harnessing Energy Efficiency and Innovation
Our fourth pillar is about energy innovation and efficiency. Energy efficiency is just common sense – it saves money and resources, and we know it can be done through private-sector led innovation and without having to limit consumer choices. That means prioritizing efficiency legislation that helps to save taxpayer dollars with no costs or mandates. It also means updating laws that haven’t adapted to today’s new energy realities, like the renewable fuel standard.
This is one area where we have already had quite a bit of success.
Back in March, the House approved H.R. 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act. That bill included four separate energy efficiency measures, including the Better Buildings Act to establish a Tenant Star program, which builds on the original Energy Star initiative to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together on highly efficient leased spaces.
We’ve passed other efficiency measures as well, including energy efficiency in schools, energy efficiency in federal buildings, and bills to promote hydropower. And there will definitely be more to come.
Pillar V: Unleashing Energy Diplomacy
Our fifth and final pillar is energy diplomacy. Let’s face it, energy is a global commodity, and those who have the energy have the power. We’re seeing this play out in real time with Russia, and we know how chaos in the Middle East affects us here at home.
We have an opportunity to use our energy as a diplomatic tool; we can take care of our domestic needs and have enough energy left to let our allies buy it from us, rather than being held hostage to unstable regions of the world.
That means making sure our current laws are not creating artificial barriers to the market and conducting oversight to ensure increased exports do no harm to American consumers.
Let me give you an example of how we can use energy as a diplomatic tool. We recently passed H.R. 6, a bill that will speed up the approval of natural gas export applications at the Department of Energy and improve the process going forward. More than two dozen export applications are pending at DOE, and some have been waiting for more than two years. Even DOE says we have enough natural gas to meet our needs here at home and support our allies around the world.
Our work will continue next year as we conduct oversight of oil, coal, nuclear and renewable technology exports as well.
A Resilient Foundation
Those five pillars make up the architecture, and they can be built on a foundation of modern tools to meet modern challenges. Let me give you a couple of examples: as we look at our energy infrastructure, we can make sure it is resilient to climate risks and that it can prevent and withstand emerging threats such as cyber and physical attacks.
The climate is an issue that often comes up when we talk about energy policy, and I agree that it ought to be part of our conversation. One thing we should all be able to agree on is that storms are becoming more destructive because more people and property stand in their way.
We do need energy infrastructure that is resilient to weather events; what we don’t need is a climate policy that will hamstring our economy and make energy more expensive, all without actually changing the climate.
So what are some specific steps we can take to accomplish this? We can work with state and local officials to enact a pro-infrastructure agenda. And we can build safer and more resilient pipelines and transmission lines to help respond to weather emergencies.
Those five pillars, that’s the energy vision – now let’s talk about why we need it.
America has a lot to gain if we put the right energy policies into place: jobs and economic growth, cheaper energy and products for the middle class and particularly for the most vulnerable, and a stronger position in the world.
So let’s conclude by returning to where this conversation began: American energy policy.
America’s energy policy today includes some good ideas, and some not so good ideas – but mostly, it reflects the sheer power of American ingenuity to overcome obstacles and develop new technologies that will allow us to make the most of our resources.
America’s energy policy in the future needs to do better. Ingenuity, innovation, and technology have unlocked these resources, but we need infrastructure, regulatory structure, and a global vision to take full advantage of them.
All of these elements, together, in a broad energy vision: it’s the Architecture of Abundance.
A Bright Future
Things looked different when I first came to D.C. – a different majority in Congress, and certainly very different ideas about energy policy. Think about it. Back then, our energy policy was based on an assumption of scarcity – a belief that we were literally running out of oil and gas. That belief turned out to be wrong. We now can talk about North American energy independence, not reliance on oil sheiks and petro dictators. We have a chance to bring real benefits and security to hard working Americans.
For as long as I have been here, I have believed that no matter which party was in charge, lawmakers from different backgrounds with different ideas could come together to get things done. I still believe that today.
I believe this is our moment. I believe we can work together to improve people’s lives. And I believe energy is a place where we can do it. We can and we will enact these policies to build the Architecture of Abundance.Yes, we need willing partners in the Senate and the White House, and I believe that come next year, the time will be right to get these policies moving. The great economic news coming from energy-producing states is going to increase awareness of these issues, and I’m convinced the American people are going to expect us to act. If the pundits are right, then Republicans are going to have an opportunity, and we’re going to have to prove we can govern. I’m excited about the possibilities.
Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, voted today for bipartisan legislation to strengthen and streamline the current system of federal workforce development services in order to better serve the nation’s job seekers, employers, and states. The agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators – H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – embodies key principles of the House-passed SKILLS Act and combines a modern reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. H.R. 803 passed by a vote of 415 to 6 and now heads to the President’s desk.
“While we have made much progress to put our economy back on track, the fact remains that millions of Americans continue to struggle to find work,” said Upton. “And while U.S. taxpayers spend billions of dollars each year on a myriad of federal job-training programs, countless positions remain unfilled as workers are not acquiring the critical skills needed to fill in-demand jobs. This bipartisan agreement helps folks acquire the training and skills they need to get back to work and grow our economy.”
WIOA streamlines the confusing web of job-training programs by eliminating 15 ineffective and duplicative workforce programs, the first time that such action has been taken in more than a decade. The legislation establishes common accountability measures for core national programs. Success will now be measured by tracking the number of participants entering and retaining employment, rather than simply counting the numbers enrolled in training programs. WIOA also repeals a dozen federal requirements governing state and local workforce development boards, enabling these important decision-making bodies to more easily address the job-training needs and priorities of their local communities.
WIOA’s commonsense reforms and added flexibility has been widely praised by our nation’s governors and community workforce development organizations.
“WIOA supports what we’ve tried to do locally for years; it streamlines services and allows for the flexibility to strategically meet the needs of the region’s employers,” said Todd Gustafson, executive director of Kinexus, which administers Michigan Works! through its workforce development division. Gustafson testified last year before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in favor of the reforms sought by the SKILLS Act.
H.R. 803 also provides better coordination of training services by enabling businesses to identify in-demand skills and connect workers with the opportunities to build those skills. Under current bureaucratic requirements, many community colleges and other training providers have been forced out of the system – WIOA fixes that by allowing states to determine eligibility for job-training providers. The bipartisan legislation also permits local areas to contract directly with community colleges and other institutions of higher education to provide specialized group training programs for employers who need to hire several skilled workers.
The legislation also provides improved outreached to individuals with unique barriers to finding employment, such as at-risk youth, low-income workers, and individuals with disabilities.
Travel and tourism are among the top industries in the state – along with agriculture and manufacturing – and we all need to do our best here in Southwest Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes State to promote it, Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said during the Michigan Tourism Roundtable discussion Monday with state officials and tourism association representatives.
“We have some of the best beaches and amenities – world-class hotels and golf courses – right here in Southwest Michigan. Each year, thousands are drawn by our lighthouses and museums, and tour the local wineries and breweries that dot our region,” said Upton, who serves as Chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. “We need to let folks know around the world that there are beaches in the middle of the United States, not just on the East and West coasts. If we could tap into that audience, it could increase the number of tourism jobs – good-paying, local jobs – as well as bring in more dollars to the local and state economy.”
Tourists in the six counties (Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren) that make up the Sixth Congressional District in 2012 spent $977.8 million, which supported 9,323 jobs and a $203.2 million payroll, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Numbers for the state were $16.8 billion for the same year, supporting 144,400 jobs with a $3.8 billion payroll.
Congress is working to help national tourism through a variety of measures, Upton said. The House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) to modernize the national water transportation infrastructure by a 412 to 4 vote. The Senate passed it 91 to 7 and the President signed it into law on June 10.
In part, WRRDA mandates that at least 10 percent of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars be spent on small ports such as South Haven. In addition, a bill Upton supported to designate the Great Lakes Navigation System as a single system for budgetary purposes, was included in WRRDA to allow all Great Lakes harbors to compete for funding as one unit rather than individually against coastal ports.
In addition to improving the Great Lakes, they must be protected, Upton said. Asian carp and other invasive species are a real threat to Michigan’s thriving fishing and tourism sectors.
“This is something all of us – local, state and federal officials – need to work on and work together to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes,” Upton said. “It’s got to be an all-hands-on-deck effort. My office is staying in communication with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Governor’s office, and other Great Lakes delegation leaders to make sure we’re doing everything we can from keeping these critters from getting into the Great Lakes.”
The Travel Promotion Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2010, created Brand USA to promote tourism in the United States through a public-private partnership and we are looking to extend this program past its September 2015 deadline, Upton said.
“As I was traveling around the district last week I just kept thinking, ‘Man, if people could just be here right now. The weather’s been wonderful. The lake is warming up. The sand is so nice,’” Upton said. “People don’t know what they’re missing. We have to let them know.”
2183 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06) is proud to represent the commonsense values of southwest Michigan. In 2010, Fred was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over matters concerning energy, healthcare, the environment, telecommunications, commerce, manufacturing, and trade, as well as oversight and investigations.
Prior to his election to Congress, Fred worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While at OMB, he learned from President Reagan’s example that it does not matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done.
Fred has a well-earned reputation for getting things done in Washington and at home in southwest Michigan. The South Bend Tribune writes that Fred “attacks government spending and wants tax cuts retained and the budget balanced.” Fred’s hometown paper, The Herald Palladium, praises Fred as someone who has “consistently fought against out-of-control spending and bigger government” and has “always treated constituent services as a vital part of his job.”
Fred’s top priorities are job creation and economic growth in southwest Michigan.
Fred strongly supports an “all of the above” energy strategy that puts a greater emphasis on domestic energy production, the advancement of breakthrough technologies, and the development of safe nuclear power. Fred has also been a leading opponent of overreaching federal regulations that stifle economic growth, harm jobs, and raise energy costs for Michigan families and businesses.
Fred values our constitutional system of government checks and balances. Fred is focused on ensuring the federal government remains limited, transparent, and accountable, as our Founding Fathers intended. As Energy and Commerce Chairman, Fred has led the over-year-long investigation of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that was the recipient of a half-billion dollar Department of Energy loan guarantee.
Fred has also worked to increase the deployment of telecommunications services as well as ensure that free speech and private innovation remain the hallmarks of this industry by opposing needless regulation. Fred helped oversee the successful transition from analog to digital broadcasting – one of the top priorities of the 9-11 Commission. Fred has also worked to guarantee that our children are protected from online predators and indecent material.
Fred has pushed for a greater emphasis on biomedical research to improve the public health. As Energy and Commerce Chairman, one of Fred’s top priorities is to repeal the President’s controversial healthcare law and replace it with commonsense, market-based reforms that benefit patients, doctors, and employers.
Fred was born on April 23, 1953 and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan. He and his wife Amey have two children.
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