Carl Levin

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Michigan Senator Carl Levin says a new military spending bill could bring some big wins for the state’s defense sector.

Levin, a Democrat and Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a big hand in crafting the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Carl Levin retires from Congress at the end of the year. He

Michigan’s senior U.S. senator reflects on his career this weekend in an interview on Michigan Public Television.

Levin sat down for an interview with Senior Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick for the show “Off the Record.”

He says he first started to think about calling it quits a couple years ago. He says the decision not to seek reelection freed him up to focus on his official responsibilities without the distractions of campaigning and fundraising.

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U.S. Sen. Carl Levin says the United States had no real choice but to get involved in the battle against the Islamic State, or ISIS.

“You can’t sit still and do nothing when you have a group like ISIS whose goal is basically total terror,” Levin said during a visit to Grand Rapids this week.

Levin says the Islamic State threatens to terrorize countries neighboring Iraq and Syria and even the U.S., if left unchecked.

Michigan is an unusual state politically. Republicans have controlled the state Senate for more than 30 years, and now solidly hold the lower House as well.

We’ve had Republican governors more often than not. But the last time Michigan voted Republican for president, the World Wide Web hadn’t yet been invented and the Soviet Union was still going strong.

And Democrats have utterly dominated our U.S. Senate races. Republicans have won just once in the last 42 years. This year, Michigan had a rare open seat, thanks to the retirement of Sen. Carl Levin. GOP hopes of finally breaking through were strong.

But … maybe not.

They ended up with a candidate who seems allergic to the normal processes of campaigning. After what seems to have been a traumatic experience on Mackinac Island in May, Terri Lynn Land has avoided reporters, ignoring all interview requests, except from a few sympathetic conservatives in carefully controlled situations.

Nor has Land campaigned openly much. She sometimes shows up for parades or other events, but usually doesn’t announce her schedule in advance. Instead, she seems to be relying on a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Carl Levin has introduced a resolution urging the Obama administration to oppose a Canadian proposal to bury radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.

A federal panel in Canada is taking testimony on the plan to store low- and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power plants in rock chambers more than 2,000 feet below the earth's surface.

Derek DeVries / Grand Rapids Community College

 

Some of America's top business leaders are breathing a big sigh of relief as Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan prepares to retire.

It turns out that Michigan's senior senator has been running a very tight ship in chairing a Senate subcommittee that's done some deep probing into the workings of some very big businesses.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, or PSI, was created back in Harry Truman's time to investigate war profit hearings. Today, the organization looks into practices in government and business. 

Kelsey Snell wrote a piece about it for Politico. She notes that the subcommittee chaired by Levin has a big focus on going after tax evasions and unfair business practices on Wall Street.

I didn’t stay on Mackinac Island during the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s conference last week.

For a number of reasons, I’m glad about that. One of which is that I took the ferry over one morning with Sen. Carl Levin and his wife, Barbara. There was a reason he didn’t stay on Mackinac, and it had nothing to do with not finding a room.

There was another conference about the Mackinac Conference 55 miles away in Charlevoix.

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If Congress has its way, it looks like the country’s fleet of A-10 warplanes will keep on flying for at least for another year.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly tried to retire the A-10 “Warthog,” an aircraft with origins in the Cold War era. The Defense Department says it’s now obsolete.

Congressmen don’t stay on the job forever, though it sometimes seems like it.

This year will be the last for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, first elected in 1978, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, the all-time longevity champ, who has represented a Detroit-area district since 1955.

Their retirements, while momentous, weren’t very surprising. Indeed, Carl Levin announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election more than a year ago. Far more shocking was the sudden decision by two mid-Michigan Republican Congressmen to bow out.

Both Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, had safe seats, a fair amount of seniority, and are youngish men by congressional standards. Yet within the last few days, both said they wouldn’t run for re-election.

That set off something of a mad scramble.

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Each week we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Earlier today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer announced that Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown will be his running mate for the upcoming 2014 election. Brown served two terms in the state House of Representatives and has served as the Oakland County Clerk since 2012, a position long held by Republicans.

Susan Demas indicates the selection of Brown will bolster the ticket because of her name recognition with voters in Southeast Michigan and she resonates well with female voters. 

“Lisa Brown...gained a lot of attention in 2012 with the debate over the controversial abortion legislation, and was known for the ‘vagina-gate’ scandal when she was not allowed to speak on the floor.”

Meanwhile, a fourth member of Michigan’s congressional delegation announced he will not seek re-election. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, will step down, along with Mike Rogers, Carl Levin and John Dingell.

A political stunner slapped all of our political cheeks awake this morning, just like that scene with Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

The news? Seven-term Republican Congressman Mike Rogers announced he is retiring from Congress. Retiring from Congress, but not the political circus. He is going to start a national radio show devoted to foreign policy and national defense, which is his bailiwick as the Chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers is also a well-known talking head. Last year, he appeared more than any other elected official on the Sunday morning news circuit. And he’s got the TV sound bites down, just last week on Meet the Press, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin, “goes to bed thinking of Peter the Great and wakes up thinking of Stalin.”

It’s not just how fond he seemed of Congress that is what makes Rogers’, who represents Lansing, Brighton, Howell and parts of Northern Oakland County, announcement so surprising, but his fondness in particular for the House of Representatives. In fact, there was speculation last year that the reason he didn’t jump into the race for Carl Levin’s open Senate seat was because he enjoyed his job in the House so much.

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Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are hopeful that U.S. and European Union sanctions will put enough pressure on Russia to change what’s been happening in Crimea.

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Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow sent a letter this week to President Obama to deal with the propane shortage hitting the Midwest.

Propane is in short supply this winter for several reasons. Prices have doubled in some parts of Michigan.

Joe Ross is the spokesman for the Michigan Propane Gas Association. Ross says new propane supplies are coming from as far away as Texas.  

“There’s a huge supply chain. It involves hundreds of different companies,” says Ross, “It’s not like turning on your water so you can get more.”]

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Emergency unemployment benefits and senatorial "jitters" over an Enbridge oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac: Both are issues consuming attention from Michigan's congressional delegation.

More than a week ago, a federal unemployment benefits program expired, leaving 1.3 million jobless Americans without aid. Some 45,000 of them are here in Michigan.

The program is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. In Michigan, the EUC added 36 more weeks to the state's regular 20 weeks of benefits.

On Capitol Hill today, Democrats are trying to pressure House Republicans to extend the program for three more months.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is trying to ease concerns over an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler joins us now to tell us more about these issues.

Listen to the full interview above.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Three U.S. senators want a federal agency to check on the safety of an oil pipeline that runs beneath Great Lakes waters.

The 60-year-old pipeline passes beneath the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It was the first pipeline Enbridge built through Michigan.

Environmentalists protested the pipeline expansion earlier this year. They sent divers down to check out the condition of the pipeline firsthand.

Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan want the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to provide details of the agency’s safety tests on the line. PHMSA is a division of the Department of Transportation.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. Senate Defense Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan says he supports the agreement between Iran and six leading nations that curbs some of Iran's nuclear programs in exchange for the easing of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.

The Democratic lawmaker said Sunday that the interim agreement "is a realistic, practical way to freeze Iran's nuclear program for six months while we seek a long-range diplomatic end to Iran's nuclear weapon ambition."

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Last night’s vote to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling divided Michigan’s Republican congress.

The legislation reopens the government through Jan. 15th and permits the U.S. Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7th or perhaps a month longer.
 

Congress faced a midnight deadline Thursday. That's when U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had said the government would reach the current $16.7 trillion debt limit and could no longer borrow to meet its obligations.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Democratic Senator Carl Levin says House Republican leaders bowing to the Tea Party is the reason for the federal government shutdown.

Levin accuses the Tea Party of doing what the 9/11 terrorists could not: shut down the federal government.

“We weren’t shutdown on 9/11.   We kept going.   There was a physical attack on us,” Levin told reporters on a conference call today,  “Now you got people who are doing an economic attack on us, saying they will not allow this government to function unless they get their way on a particular issue.”

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The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving the Wayne County Airport Authority a $12 million federal grant to renovate a runway at the Willow Run Airport, according to Congressmen John Dingell and John Conyers, Jr. and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

This is on top of the $9 million in federal funding awarded to the airport in July. This additional $12 million will go towards the repaving of runway 05R/23L.

Derek DeVries / Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) introduced legislation Thursday he says will close a number of tax loopholes. Levin sees the bill as part of a larger plan to reduce the federal deficit.

Levin says his bill would provide about $220 billion more in tax revenue over ten years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A Republican congressman from western Michigan has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat opening with the retirement of Democrat Carl Levin.

Justin Amash of Kent County's Cascade Township confirmed on Twitter Tuesday night that he won't run. The libertarian conservative has gained a higher profile in the House with a challenge to the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records.

Amash's announcement further clears the way for former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to proceed with her campaign.

White House press office

The president’s speech last night on Syria is drawing mixed reactions from Michigan’s Congressional delegation.

Senator Carl Levin says the president “made a forceful and persuasive case” for confronting the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says Congress should approve a resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria as a way of supporting diplomatic efforts.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Michigan’s congressional delegation is weighing in on the President’s call for congressional authorization for military action in Syria.

Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator says he’s glad the President is seeking congressional approval for a military strike against Syria.

In a written statement, Democratic Senator Carl Levin says “A congressional vote to authorize the use of force would strengthen the President’s decision to take military action.” Levin adds the President should also use this time to help the Syrian people “defend themselves”.

NPR

Michigan’s two U.S. Senators say the Obama administration should act cautiously to calls to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt.

The U.S. sends $1.5 billion in Military and Economic aid to the Egyptian government.

Critics say all U.S. aid should be cut in response to the Egyptian military’s overthrow of the elected government and the clashes involving the Muslim Brotherhood that has followed.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says the situation needs further review before taking action to shut down the aid to Egypt.

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Legislation under consideration in Congress would designate about 32,500 acres within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness.

Danielle Lynch / Flickr

On Wednesday, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that brings Congress one step closer to declare a portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, some 32,557 acres,  as a "wilderness area."

Though the Sleeping Bear Dunes is already protected, it hasn't been declared a wilderness area yet.

Congress can designates wilderness areas under the Wilderness Act:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Wilderness areas try erase any trace of human activity. These designations can be controversial when some believe human history in the area should be preserved. The National Park Service has faced situations like this in the past.

The bill was sponsored by Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and will affect almost half of the 35 miles of National Lakeshore.

This week on It's Just Politics, it's all about the art of the campaign announcement.

This morning Congressman Mike Rogers surprised no one when he told the world, or, at least, the state of Michigan, that he will not be a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the retirement of Carl Levin in 2014. Rogers says he has too much on his plate as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. And, there’s truth to that: Syria, Iran, and North Korea, not to mention the renewed scrutiny over how the U.S. gathers intelligence.  A very competitive U.S. doesn’t fit well with those big responsibilities.

We should point out Mike Rogers could not do that job if he didn’t live in the safely Republican 8th Congressional District, nicely drawn for him courtesy of the Michigan Legislature’s GOP majorities. Rogers hasn’t had a tough race since his first congressional race in 2000. That race against Democrat Dianne Byrum a dozen years ago was one of the closest in the country. But that’s not a problem for Rogers anymore. He probably has this seat for as long as he wants it.

Rogers let us know his plans via e-mail, which is how it’s done these days. Earlier this month, Republican Terri Lynn Land announced her U.S. Senate plans (she’s in) on Twitter. And, former-Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer did the same thing; filed his papers to run for Governor as a Democrat and, then, Tweeted it.

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This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Kyle Norris discuss Medicaid expansion in Michigan, immigration reform and how it could affect struggling Michigan cities, and the race for Senator Carl Levin’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Ever since U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced three months ago that he wouldn't seek another term next year, most Michigan Republicans have been waiting for Godot.

Except in this case, Godot is Brighton area Congressmen Mike Rogers, who most GOP leaders felt would be their strongest candidate. Rogers has been unable or unwilling to decide, however, and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will run.

He has a safe seat in Congress and a powerful and prestigious position as chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Giving all that up for a risky run for a seat in a state where Democrats usually win U.S. Senate contests might not seem that appealing. But I’ve never felt Rogers was the Republicans' strongest potential candidate. I think their best chance to win is the woman who announced her candidacy this week, Terri Lynn Land.

Courtesy: Free Amir / Freeamir.org

626 days and counting. That’s how long a young Iranian-American man from Flint has been in police custody in Tehran.

Two years ago, Amir Hekmati traveled to Iran to visit his grandmother. Iranian officials accused Hekmati of spying for the CIA, seizing the ex-Marine and throwing him into prison.

In January 2012, Hekmati was sentenced to death for his alleged conspiring with the U.S. government.

Later, the Iranian Supreme Court overturned his sentence, but Hekmati is still waiting in prison for a retrial — with no apparent end in sight.

But Hekmati’s family, based in Michigan, hasn’t stopped fighting for Amir’s release.

Since his arrest in 2011, Amir’s family has posted pictures in Times Square, hosted art exhibitions in Detroit, and urged state officials in Washington to move on the case.

“We’re not getting a lot of movement from Iran,” Amir’s sister Sarah Hekmati told us on Stateside. “But we’re trying to raise awareness of the situation.”

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