Carl Levin

The political chattering class is busy today in Michigan talking about Senator Carl Levin – retiring after three decades in the US Senate. Politicos are remembering a long and distinguished career – a career, we should mention, that is certainly not yet over. Senator Levin still has another 20 months before the end of his term. But if we’re honest – really honest – this announcement kicks off the insider talk about who will run to replace him. Right now, that’s a delicate subject: sort of like talking about what’s in the will while you’re still at the funeral. But, the plotting has already begun… this is politics, after all.

It would be somewhat uncouth - slightly tacky - for anyone to publicly express interest in the seat this soon. But, let’s just say, anyone who has not taken themselves out is either in or thinking about it. On the Democratic side, we’ve got Congressman Gary Peters and Democratic National Committeewoman and southeast Michigan power broker Debbie Dingell. On the Republican side we’ve got Congressman Justin Amash, former Sectary of State Terri Lynn Land and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

Calley, however, is in a bit of an awkward position if his name keeps getting mentioned.  Attorney General Bill Schuette made sure he took his own name out of consideration very quickly. For his office, like lieutenant governor and secretary of state, the nomination is made at a party convention. If Schuette, Calley or Secretary of State Ruth Johnson keep popping up on people’s lists of possible Senate candidates, that invites an effort for other contenders for their jobs to organize a convention challenge – which is just a couple thousand people; something that’s do-able for a lot of people who might not have the wherewithal to organizer a primary campaign. So, some possible contenders really have to decide quickly: fish or cut bait. It may be an honor to be mentioned… but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing.

When I heard yesterday afternoon that Senator Carl Levin was not going to run for reelection, the first  thing that popped into my mind was a line from Macbeth.

"Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it."

That doesn’t exactly fit here, though the way in which he chose to leave the Senate was as classy as his spotless  career.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced his retirement

Saying he wants to focus on his last two years in the Senate without the distraction of a campaign, Sen. Carl Levin announced he would not seek re-election in 2014.

The Washington Post wrote "don't let his rumpled suits or avuncular glasses fool you..."

Levin is ready for a fight.

The former civil-rights lawyer is famous for his deep policy knowledge - he spends more than 20 hours getting ready for hearings so he'll "know when the B.S. is flying," and he nailed George W. Bush administration officials with his precise questioning.
As Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Levin has spearheaded some key proposals on national security. He fought tirelessly to end the Iraq war, which he opposed from the start.

Flint tries to collect unpaid taxes

Flint is trying to cut into a $19 million budget deficit. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports the city hopes to collect on past taxes:

To chip away at part of that, city officials plan to pressure people who haven’t paid their city income taxes for a while. The city estimates that it’s owed between $300,000 and $400,000 in unpaid income taxes for just 2010.

Consumers Energy halts drilling practice after explosion

The Associated Press reports Consumers Energy says it has halted projects throughout Michigan that involve the same drilling method used before a deadly Detroit-area house explosion. Consumers Energy says employees and contractors are conducting a review of projects involving boring. Fifty-eight-year-old Daniel Malczynski died in the Royal Oak blast last month.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Update 8:23 p.m.

President Obama released this statement about Sen. Carl Levin's announcement:

If you’ve ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line, or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you’ve had a voice and a vote in Senator Carl Levin. No one has worked harder to bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, close unfair tax loopholes, and ensure that everyone plays by the same set of rules. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin is a true champion for all those who serve, and his tireless work will be missed not just in his home state of Michigan, but by military families across our country. Michelle and I wish Carl, Barbara and their family all the best, and I look forward to working with Carl over the next two years as we continue tackling some of our nation’s toughest challenges.

5:32 p.m.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014.

Levin has been serving in the U.S. Senate since 1979.

He released the following statement:

I have decided not to run for re-election in 2014.

This decision was extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and fighting for the things that I believe are important to them.

When Carl Levin was first elected to the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama was a 17-year-old high school senior.

That was more than 34 years ago. Today, of course, not only has that high school boy become President, he has run in his last election. But not only is Carl Levin still in the Senate, he may very well run for a seventh term next year.

And politicians of both parties are anxiously waiting to find out. Democrats, perhaps a little more anxiously than Republicans. Here’s why. If Carl Levin runs, they automatically hold the seat.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

US Senator Carl Levin says the federal government needs to invest in renewable energy companies, even if those investments sometimes go bad. Levin made the remarks during a visit to Grand Rapids Community College today.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Vietnam veteran finally received one of the nation's highest military honors on this Independence Day.

Arnold Spencer got his Purple Heart more than four decades after he was wounded in the leg and refused medical evacuation.

Spencer was only 19 years old when he served as an artillery forward observer in an infantry unit in Vietnam.   

He was wounded in a firefight, but turned down a medical evacuation, allowing a more seriously-injured soldier to go in his place, and returned to his unit.

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee says Chairman Carl Levin and member Jack Reed are visiting Afghanistan, Turkey and NATO headquarters in Belgium starting this weekend.

The committee announced the trip Sunday by the two Democratic lawmakers. Levin is from Michigan and Reed is from Rhode Island.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

President Obama is setting his sights on oil-market speculators. The President laid out a plan this week that would make it easier for the government to regulate oil trading markets.

There’s concern in the Obama administration that speculators are artificially driving up the price of oil. The President’s plan would increase spending to provide better oversight of energy markets. It would also increase penalties against those who engage in illegal trading.

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin is in favor of the President's plan. He thinks more regulation of the markets is needed. "This is not a situation where the market is governing – where the usual rules of supply and demand govern. As a matter of fact, if supply and demand were the driving force here, gas prices would be going down. Not up," Levin says.

The President concedes that his plan will not immediately lower gas prices. But he says it will prevent market manipulation which, in turn, will help consumers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s 15 members of congress are questioning proposed cuts that affect the state’s air national guard bases. They sent letters to both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees Monday. The congressional delegation joined Governor Rick Snyder, who questioned Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta about the cuts (along with other governors) in a letter last week.

The cuts would eliminate more than 600 positions; although most are part-time jobs with the Michigan Air National Guard. The two bases affected are in Battle Creek and near Mt. Clemens.

Courtesy of the office of U.S. Senator Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin says Congress needs to pass an extension of the payroll tax break that’s set to expire at the end of the month.   

Levin says the cut in the taxes collected to pay for Social Security saved the average worker about $1,000 in taxes during the past year.

“If we do not extend this payroll tax reduction," says Levin, "we’re going to find 160 million people with a tax increase on January 1.”   

Republicans are balking at extending the tax break. They want Democrats to agree to budget cuts to make up for the loss of money for the Social Security system.  

Democrats want to pay for the tax cut with a surcharge on the very wealthy.  

A final deal is not expected until next week.

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says the U-S Congress is facing fundamental questions about whether it can continue to function.

Levin spoke at the Detroit Economic Club Monday.

Levin spoke in spoke in personal terms about “the dilemma that I and other members of Congress face.”

Michigan Democratic Senator, Carl Levin, has proposed a 7-point plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least one trillion dollars over 10 years. His proposal comes amidst discussions within the special bi-partisan subcommittee charged with balancing the federal budget. Several of the points in the plan deal with closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations and wealthy Americans. Is it possible to move those points of the plan forward in the current political climate?

screen grab of YouTube video

Two people will spend the next month in federal custody for throwing a pie in the face of U.S. Senator Carl Levin.  

The incident happened a year ago as Michigan Senator Carl Levin met with constituents at a restaurant in Big Rapids. Levin was unhurt.  The pie was supposed to be a protest of the senator’s foreign policy positions. 

23 year old Ahlen Mohsen threw the apple pie. 24 year old Max Kantar bought the pie. The two plead  guilty to federal charges.  

A federal judge in Grand Rapids sentenced the pair to 30 days in federal custody.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that during the sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell said he needed to show that attacks on elected officials meeting with constituents cannot be tolerated.

Here's how Levin remembered the incident:

(Flickr ebatty)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says one way to reduce the nation’s federal budget deficit is to close loopholes in overseas tax havens.  Levin says offshore tax loopholes cost the federal treasury 100 billion dollars every year.   He says the complexity of the tax havens make them difficult to trace. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin wants all sides to give up trying to tie increasing the federal debt ceiling to a major cut in federal spending. The budget talks have stalled as President Obama and Congressional Republicans have been unable to agree on closing tax loopholes.

Levin says tying budget cuts to increasing the debt ceiling has been a bad idea.  

“Frankly never should have been combined.  We have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.  We ought to reduce the deficit.  And we will.   But, whether we can do that in time to avoid a real calamity here which will occur if out debt ceiling is not raised is just anybody’s guess.”  

Congress has until August 2nd to agree to increase the federal government’s debt ceiling. After that, the government could possibly risk going into default.

user amtrak_russ / Flickr

Passenger rail in Michigan will get some upgrades because of a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Most of $199 million granted to the state will go toward improving the rail lines between Detroit and Chicago so passenger trains can travel faster.

The improvements are expected to allow trains to travel at top speeds of 110 m.p.h. rather than 95 m.p.h. The Department of Transportation says the improvements will cut 30 minutes off the time to travel between Detroit and Chicago.

Senators Levin and Stabenow put out a press release this morning with some of the details of the plan.

They say the track will be improved between Kalamazoo and Dearborn:

[the] rail project will rehabilitate track and signal systems to allow trains to travel at 110 mph for the 135-mile stretch. The current obsolete signal system will be replaced with a positive train control system, improving safety. The grant fully funds the state's request.

Levin and Stabenow say $2.8 million in Recovery Act funds will also be used to start the process of building a new train station in Ann Arbor:

The Ann Arbor Station's $2.8 million will be used to complete a preliminary engineering and environmental study required to design and construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor Station is the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, but only has single-tracking capacity, forcing intercity trains to block the mainline while serving the station. By constructing a passing track, more than one train will be able to service the station while others can pass unimpeded.

The money being spent in Michigan is part of $2 billion in new spending on rail service across the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation made the spending announcements today.

Rail passengers in Michigan will see new locomotives and passenger cars as a result of the spending. Seven higher-speed locomotives and 48 new passenger cars will run between Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is attending the press conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood scheduled for today at 2:30 today in Detroit. We'll hear more from her later.

GOP Losing Streak

Apr 19, 2011

For many years, Michigan has had a strong two-party tradition. During the nineteen-eighties and early nineties, Michigan voters came closer than any other state to mirroring the national presidential results. But we don’t just go with the winners.

We’ve also had one of the oldest and strongest traditions of ticket-splitting in the nation. Back in 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson carried the state by more than a million votes, something never seen before or since. But seven hundred thousand of those voters crossed over to give Republican George Romney a landslide as well.

Photograph courtesy of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's office

A new report lays the blame for much of Detroit’s foreclosure problems at the feet of one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders. 

In 2003, Washington Mutual Bank’s CEO said he wanted to turn his bank into “the Wal-Mart of Banking."  His plan was to focus on low and moderate income borrowers deemed “too risky” by other lenders. 

By 2008, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual and the company filed for bankruptcy protection. 

What happened? 

Washington Mutual had taken major losses in the subprime loan market.  Its subsidiary, Long Beach Mortgage Corporation was for a time the second biggest subprime mortgage lender in Detroit.  Between 2005 and 2007, more than half of those loans ended in foreclosure.

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin says Washington Mutual’s subprime loan practices “devastated” neighborhoods and families in Detroit.  At the end of a year long investigation, Levin’s released a report blaming reckless lending and lax federal oversight for the near collapse of the nation’s banking system in 2008.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, will co-chair the U.S. Senate’s Great Lakes Task Force for the next two years, the Associated Press reports.

Levin has been on the task force since 1999. Kirk is taking over the position for fellow Republican Senator George Voinovich who retired earlier this year. The AP explains:

The bipartisan group deals with Great Lakes issues that involve the federal government. It has supported an interstate compact to protect water supplies and funding for programs such as invasive species control and cleanup of contaminated sediments.

Kirk said Tuesday he hoped the panel also would develop legislation to crack down on dumping raw sewage into the lakes.

In a statement released on Senator Levin's website yesterday, Levin said:

“I am pleased that Senator Kirk will serve as co-chair of the task force, and I’m excited about our prospects to protect and enhance our Great Lakes. The task force has led the way to passage for legislation to clean up contaminated sediments, fight invasive species and prevent the diversion of precious fresh water from the Great Lakes basin. I look forward to working with Senator Kirk and I am confident that he will help add to that important legacy.”

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