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Rep. Fred Upton discusses the date of the infrastructure bill

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. With us now is Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan. He's a Republican who supports the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He is also a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Good morning, Congressman Upton.

FRED UPTON: Well, good morning to you.

KING: Do you expect to vote on the infrastructure bill today? Where do you think this is headed?

UPTON: I sure hope so. I hope we get there. And there's added - more pressure today in that the funding for the Department of Transportation for highway projects, which is fueled by the gas tax, expired at midnight as well. So these projects slowly will have real issues unless we get that done, which is part of this what we call the BIF - the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But remember, it did pass the Senate 69-30 last August.

KING: Why do you support this bill?

UPTON: Well, the Problem Solvers, of which I'm one of the vice chairs on the Republican side - Governor Larry Hogan from Maryland last April said, let's get some folks together on both sides of the aisle. And he got governors. He got Senators and House members, along with some outside experts, Larry Lindsey and others. And we just talked about, what should an infrastructure bill look like? What should it be focused on? And how should we pay for it? And we came together with a structure that ultimately served as a base for what the Senate did with Senator Portman and others in the Senate - passed, you know, better than 2-1. So this is that same bill that - the same formula that we've, as Problem Solvers, have been working on, really, since last April.

KING: Republican leadership in the House is claiming that these two bills, the infrastructure bill and then the $3.5 trillion bill, are linked. And so a vote for infrastructure means a vote for trillions of dollars in federal spending. Do you think your leadership is misrepresenting what's going on?

UPTON: Well, they're not really linked. And remember, they're two separate bills. And part of the problem with the 3 1/2 trillion - and as Manchin - as you indicated - reported a little bit earlier, Manchin is now bringing that number down from 3.5 to 1.5. But one of the issue, particularly on the Republican side, is that it undoes the Trump tax cuts that were enacted back in 2017. So that's a huge issue for us. But they - you know, we don't even have a bill yet for that 3 1/2 or 1 1/2. They're working on a simple framework on it now. That's what the discussions were last night with Speaker Pelosi in the White House. But they don't have a bill yet.

It'll be weeks and weeks before they have legislative language and see where - exactly where they are. And who knows if they actually end up with the votes to pass it in either the House or the Senate. So there are two separate bills. And again, for us in the House, we want to pass the same bill that the Senate did. And under the procedures in Congress, if we changed it, it would have to go back to the Senate. That's not going to happen. Let's - you know, it's been six weeks since they passed it.

KING: You want to get it done. Infrastructure is usually an issue that gets support from both parties. Historically, that's been the case. Both parties in the House are divided on this. As you watch Democrats struggle to get their members on board, what are you thinking?

UPTON: Well, I'm hoping we can get it done. I mean, infrastructure - and I - when I first came to the Congress, I served on the Transportation Committee. It's always been bipartisan. I'm from Michigan. Our roads are in tough shape. This bill is focused on roads and bridges. It's focused on ports, broadband, energy security with our grid. And we saw what happened with the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline this last spring. But we also know weather-related issues, like we see in California with the fires and power lines going out and what happened with Hurricane Ida down in Louisiana, you know, just a few weeks ago. All of that is infrastructure. And that's where our focus as Problem Solvers has been. And we pay for it by recapturing some of the money from the COVID package that, again, most of it - much of it passed on a bipartisan basis.

KING: If infrastructure is not voted on today, if it doesn't pass today or this weekend, how long could this go on?

UPTON: It has - (laughter) I mean, you know, we're all here. I mean, we're all sort of watching. Last night, we didn't get the word until - I don't know - 11:30 or last night, when we finished. And I'm going to be back again this morning. I don't think we're going to go home until we have a vote. So whether it's this afternoon or if it bleeds into tomorrow, remember, it's also tied to the highway funding. So we've got a lot of orange barrels in Michigan. And all of that will stop unless we get this thing done.

KING: OK.

UPTON: So I'm hoping that they're close. And I'm hoping that we can get to a vote and people realize that we've got to get it done.

KING: Congress did narrowly avert a government shutdown last night, passed a short-term funding bill. President Biden has signed it. It only funds the government through December 3. Why not pass a bill that fully funds the government for another year?

UPTON: Well, you probably need to ask the senators.

KING: Fair.

UPTON: We passed all the bills in the House. The Senate hasn't done any of them. So I'm not trying to point fingers. I say that with a smile. But I did see that Senator Shelby said yesterday that he anticipated that the Senate could get things wrapped up by December 3, so let's hold him to it.

KING: OK. Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan, a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Thanks for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

UPTON: You bet. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.