Business, Obama officials come calling as Rep. Fred Upton assumes Energy and Commerce post

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 11:02 PM

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) set a colorful cylindrical box on his office coffee table.

In the box was a game, Jenga, in which players remove wooden blocks one by one from a tower and place them on top. The structure grows taller and less stable - until it collapses.

Upton is going to play Jenga with Obama's health-care law.

"It's like this game," he said. "We're going to pull out the pieces."

As the new chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton will have his hands on myriad pieces of business-focused and politically loaded legislation, involving not only health care but also energy and telecommunications.

A 24-year veteran of the House, the affable Upton has often worked with Democrats - too often, according to conservative Republicans who vehemently opposed his elevation to the chairmanship.

But his current views on business issues place him solidly in line with the agenda of House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and the Republican leadership. He wants to undo "Obamacare," rein in the Environmental Protection Agency and halt the administration's efforts to guarantee "net neutrality," which would prohibit telecommunication giants from giving preferential treatment to certain Web traffic.

On Thursday - Day One of his tenure as chairman - he urged the Rules Committee to quickly bring to the House floor a measure titled "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

"We must repeal this job-killing health law that raids the pocketbooks of working Americans," he said, "and sends their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington to create jobs for bureaucrats who decide what health care the public can have."

In his office later that day, he conceded that although the measure to scrap the entire health-care law would pass the House, it would ultimately fail. That's where Jenga comes in. He plans to bring individual pieces of the law to votes, hoping to garner enough Democratic support to repeal each item and undercut the whole package.

"We'll see how that falls, or plays," Upton said.

Businesses and trade associations have cozied up to Upton. Even when his victory was assured in the final days before the midterm election, the donations to his campaign poured in.

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