U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, ‘a regular conservative,’ loses ally in Boehner

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Rep. Fred Upton will lose an ally when House Speaker John Boehner leaves the post Oct. 30.

And the St. Joseph Republican’s approach to his job may prove further out of style among House Republicans, one observer says.

“I think (the Boehner resignation) shows the schism within the Republican Party with people who are not concerned with working with each other,” said John Clark, a political science professor at Western Michigan University. “Rep. Upton is viewed as being a moderate because he is willing to look at the opposition’s viewpoint, although in reality his decisions have been more conservative.”

The resignation marks what is shaping up to be a fight within the House, which Clark said would pit tea party Republicans against the likes of regular conservatives, like Upton.

Boehner’s resignation comes when there is a potential government shutdown in the works. The speaker had been under pressure to keep the government open and yet satisfy conservative members who were refusing to vote for any bill that would provide funds for Planned Parenthood.

Clark, who specializes in Congress, said the split will linger regardless of who replaces Boehner.

“It’s about their approach to politics,” Clark said. “The House is primarily made up of those who are solving problems and those that are interested in pushing an agenda that may or may not have any chance (of becoming law). “Being the speaker means you are the leader of the representatives, not just the majority. The speaker has to be a grown-up and that means you are going to have to do things that angers part of your party. That will be a challenge for anyone who becomes speaker.”

Upton on Friday issued a statement and declined a Herald-Palladium interview request.

“I respect Speaker Boehner’s decision. In the coming days and weeks we will have critical votes before us – and we have to get the job done for the American people,” the statement read. “We are elected to put our country first, and I believe that is exactly what Speaker Boehner did today.”

Boehner’s lasting legacy, in the eyes of Clark, was that he joined the dwindling group of statesman.

“That relates to his career as speaker, in the sense that he didn’t shy away from difficult negotiations,” Clark said. “That’s one of the things you face in a divided government. With a Democrat in the White House and Republicans controlling the house, you have to figure out ways to work with the other side. I certainly have the sense he didn’t shy from the challenge.”

Susan Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics – a news outlet that analyzes political and policy trends – said Boehner had a hard job as Speaker of the House. However, it is a job that would be difficult for anyone to do, given the divide among conservatives.

“I think there are many who are frustrated the wheels of government do not turn on a dime,” Demas said. “They want their agenda implemented now. John Boehner is not Superman. Nobody can do that.”

As for who will replace Boehner as second in line to the presidency, Demas believes it will be the current House Majority Leader.

“Obviously, you have to give a strong nod to Kevin McCarthy, who is No. 2 in the House,” she said. “Daniel Webster from Florida is his main competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone else jumped into the race.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 26, 2015)

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