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Michigan Rep. Fred Upton announces plan to retire

Former Energy and Commerce chairman faced a primary after redistricting

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., announced Tuesday that he would not run for reelection. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Longtime Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton announced Tuesday that he will be retiring at the end of his current term.

“Reagan worked both sides of the aisle to get things done, caring less about who got the credit, and I made a promise that such a principle would be my guiding light,” Upton said on the House floor.

Upton, a former Reagan administration staffer whose congressional career led him to the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was first elected to the House in 1986. He highlighted his legislative career in his retirement announcement from the floor.

Upton becomes the 50th member of the House to announce he is not seeking reelection, and the 19th Republican to do so. His planned departure came as he faced a primary against fellow Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga because of redistricting.

Upton was among the Republican House members who voted in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. He is the fourth of that group not to seek another term.

Off the House floor, he said the decision was independent of either the former president or a primary battle.

He noted that he had seven primaries over the course of his career and that “at some point there has to be a last chapter, and this is it.” He said he misses his two children and three grandchildren and wants to spend more time with them.

“Federal judges ruled Friday. They locked in the districts. Created a new district, Southeast Michigan, so likely to go to John James,” Upton said, noting that his district had been cut three different ways. James is a GOP candidate in one of those districts whom Trump endorsed last week.

Trump had also endorsed Huizenga, but Upton said the opposition of the former president was not what drove him to retire.

“Not really. You know, he’s all in against me. But you know, I have no second thoughts or regrets about the votes that I’ve cast, whether it be for the Jan. 6 commission to get to the bottom of it, whether it was impeachment. He said he did everything totally appropriate. I disagree, and the facts will come out when the report is done,” Upton said.

Still, the decision to leave was not an easy one.

“I’ve been here 36 years. When I first ran, I thought I’d be here 10,” he said, fighting back tears at points.

Upton said he considers his lasting legacy to be the 21st Century Cures Act, a law that he said “paved the way to expedite the approval of FDA drugs and devices coupled with $45 billion in health research money.” He added that it “allowed the FDA to approve the vaccines for COVID eight to 10 months earlier than what otherwise would have been, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”

In his floor speech, Upton reflected about the past and future.

“Even the best stories [have] a last chapter. This is it for me. I’ve done the zillions of airline miles back and forth, I’ve signed ‘Fred’ to over a million letters, cast more votes than anyone while here, and by most accounts succeeded in making a difference, accomplishing what I’ve set out to do, with more unfinished work still yet to come,” Upton said.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., spoke on the floor immediately after Upton’s announcement.

“He has always put the people he served first,” Dingell said. “To him, ‘bipartisan’ and ‘compromise’ are not forbidden words. Fred knew well that if we’re going to deliver real solutions for the American people, we need to come together and listen to all perspectives, no matter how complicated the issue might be.”

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