Retiring GOP lawmaker: Death threats are 'a detriment getting good people to run'

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Michigan's longest-serving congressman said extreme far-right members in his party have caused leadership issues.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he received death threats for voting in favor of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last year. The Michigan Republican announced earlier this month that he will retire from Congress after nearly 36 years in office.

"It puts you at risk, particularly when they threaten not only you — I like to think I'm pretty fast — but when they threaten your spouse or your kids or whatever," Upton told NBC host Chuck Todd. "That's what really makes it frightening."

Upton said the steadily growing fringe elements in the Republican Party have made it harder to convince "good people" to run for Congress.

"It's going to be a detriment getting good people to run," Upton said. "It really will be, because I've got a school board member who lives on my street, I think he got death threats too just over the mask mandate."

Upton, the longest-serving congressman in Michigan, said he believes Republicans will flip the Democrat-controlled House in this fall’s midterm elections, but added that the GOP will be in "troubled waters" if they win by a narrow majority. If that is the case, Upton said right-wing extremists within his own party like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) will make it difficult for Republicans to govern.

"It will be very hard to govern for Republicans if we're under 230, knowing that we've got the MTG element that's really not a part of a governing majority," Upton said.

Upton, who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is the fourth House Republican to announce his retirement after supporting Trump’s impeachment. The remaining six House Republicans all face challenging primary contests against Trump-endorsed candidates.

Although Greene lost her committee assignments due to her calls for violence against fellow lawmakers, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already promised she will get them back if the GOP regains control in November.

In March, McCarthy declined to punish or criticize Greene after she spoke at a convention hosted by a prominent white nationalist. And last year, 199 House Republicans voted not to sanction Greene — who once "liked" Facebook posts that called for Democratic Party leaders to be killed — over her repeated inflammatory statements.

There are 221 Democratic representatives and 209 Republican representatives in the House, with 218 votes needed to hold the majority. According to the Cook Political Report, House Democrats are currently predicted to hold 189 seats in comparison to Republicans' 184 seats, with 24 seats rated a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.