Congress

Bug_girl_mi / Flickr

A group of environmentalists is calling on Congress to fully fund Great Lakes restoration projects in the federal budget.

They say the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is working to clean waterways and drinking water, and create jobs in the Great Lakes region.

Jeff Skelding, with the Healing Our Waters coalition, says talk of budget cuts in Washington, D.C. have Great Lakes conservationists on guard:

There are those in Congress who would gladly take the axe to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative without a second thought. Our message to Congress is – cutting successful Great Lakes restoration programs that protect drinking water, safeguard public health, create jobs and uphold the quality of health for millions of people is exactly the wrong thing to do.

The coalition hopes Congress will approve $300 million dollars for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the coming weeks.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The dean of Michigan's congressional delegation plans to stay in Washington. John Dingell says he plans to run again for the seat he's held since the mid-50's.

Here's the Associated Press story:

Two months after winning a 28th full term in the U.S. House, Michigan's John Dingell says he's going for 29. The 84-year-old Dearborn Democrat tells The Detroit News he'll be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Dingell has been in Congress since 1955. He calls it "the greatest job in the world."

The man known as "Big John" currently represents the 15th District, which could be in jeopardy as redistricting looms. The number of House seats in Michigan will drop one to 14 next year, and majority Republicans could change up Dingell's district.

It now encompasses the far southeastern portion of the state, including Monroe and Ann Arbor. Dingell says he's "had three bad redistrictings" and has "survived every one of them.

In what's been called a symbolic move, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a repeal of the new health care law this week (maybe tomorrow).

It's symbolic because the law isn't likely to be repealed. A vote isn't expected to come up in the Senate, and even if a repeal bill DID pass the Senate, President Obama would more than likely veto it.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, spoke with supporters of the federal health care law.

Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak will be heading to Harvard University this spring for a resident fellowship. As the Detroit Free Press reports:

Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee in the Upper Peninsula, retired from office this year at the end of his ninth 2-year term. As a resident fellow this spring, he and the other five people selected will meet with students, participate in activities with the Harvard community and lead weekly study groups on a range of topics.

As Politico notes, Stupak, "didn't much enjoy his intense moment at the center of the health care fight and didn't seek re-election."

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody caught up with Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke. Carmody asked Clarke about his reaction to the Giffords tragedy:

The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit has often been a place for local members of Congress to meet and greet constituents.

But this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman is raising questions about security.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman has affected his security plans:

"We are implementing some of the procedures recommended by the U. S. Capitol Police, but I feel confident that those will be adequate."

Clarke was sworn in for his first turn in Congress just days ago.

One of the first people he met was Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Clarke says the two talked about both being graduates of Cornell University.

He expressed sadness on the attempt on Giffords' life, but he says that danger is just a fact of life that all elected officials must face:

"I'm not going to change how I work.   I'm going to be as open and available to the public.  I think that's very important.  I represent the taxpayers. I'm paid by the taxpayers.  I'm hired by them to work for them.  They need to know that their government is open and available to them."

flickr - cliff1066

As a way of proving how fiscally conservative they are, some members of Congress are choosing to sleep in their offices on Capitol Hill.

Ashley Parker writes about the "Couch Caucus" in a New York Times piece today.

Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke is featured in the article. He's a freshman Congressman from Michigan's 13th District (Detroit area).

Clarke is quoted in the article about why he's choosing to sleep in his office:

"Washington is not going to be a home for me — I’m only there to work. I need to be able to work up to 20 hours a day and still get some decent sleep, and if I sleep in my office I’ll be able to do that.

The Times reports the members choosing to sleep in their offices are spread across party lines, but mostly male members of Congress are choosing to do so. Parker writes about the critics of the practice:

They...complain that the practice can feel like a macho boys club, that it promotes a fierce anti-Washington sentiment that hurts bipartisanship and that, frankly, it just seems weird.

The offices are equipped with basic furniture, sinks, and bathrooms. But there are no sleeper sofas, and no showers. Members head to the gym in the office building to wash up.

flickr - republican conference

The new Congress gets started today in Washington D.C. and Michigan's 6th District Representative, Fred Upton, will chair a congressional committee with broad powers.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce oversees a wide range of issues:

  • energy
  • telecommunications
  • consumer protection
  • food and drug safety
  • public health
  • air quality and environmental health
  • interstate and foreign commerce

Fred Upton is kicking off his chairmanship by targeting the EPA's goal to limit carbon emissions that have lead to global warming.

camp.house.gov

Today is the first day of the new republican controlled House of Representatives. Officially, along with the Senate, they're known as the 112th Congress. The members will be sworn in this afternoon.

The Washington Post blog "The Fix" has a list of 10 members of Congress to watch. Republican Dave Camp, of Michigan's 4th district, is listed as one of the ten:

Camp may be the most powerful member of Congress you've never heard of. He's the chairman of the mighty Ways and Means Committee and, though low profile, will have considerable sway over health care, taxes and trade. That's a wide -- and important -- palette.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Flickr

The politicos over at NBC's First Read have put together a look at the 112th Congress by the numbers:

  • In the House: Republicans will hold a 242-193 advantage.
  • In the Senate: Democrats will hold a 53-47 majority. (Two senators are independent but caucus with the Democrats).
  • There are 96 new members of the House (87 Republicans, nine Democrats).
  • The House will include 43 Tea Party-backed members.
  • The Senate will have five Tea Party-backed members.
  • In total, in the Senate, there will be 16 new members (13 Republicans, three Democrats).
Three New Michigan Congressmen
Photo courtesy of huizengaforcongress.com

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new when they're sworn in later this afternoon at the Capitol.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced last April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

Republican Bill Huizenga beat Democrat Fred Johnson in Michigan’s 3rd District in western Michigan.  Huizenga takes the seat left open by Republican Pete Hoekstra who was a GOP candidate for governor in the state’s 2010 primary.

3rd District

West Michigan freshman state lawmaker Justin Amash beat his Democratic challenger Pat Miles in Michigan’s 3rd District which covers parts of west Michigan. At 30 years old, Amash will become one of the nation’s youngest U.S. Congressmen.  He had Tea-Party backing.

4th District

Republican Dave Camp won an 11th term as Representative of Michigan’s 4th District.  Camp beat his democrat challenger Jerry Campbell.  The 4th District includes parts of Saginaw County, as well as northern and central Michigan.

Congressman Fred Upton
Republican Conference / Flickr

Republican Congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's 6th District, says his fellow GOP lawmakers will go after the new health care law piece by piece.  Upton made the comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

As The Associated Press reports:

That effort, says Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, will follow a vote to repeal the health care law outright. Such a vote could come early in the new year after the GOP takes control of the House. Upton is the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and he says that repealing the health care law is his top priority.

Upton says he hopes for a vote before President Obama gives this year's State of the Union address.

Map of U.S. House of Representative seats gained and lost in Census count
U.S. Census Bureau

Officials in the Obama White House say they're not concerned about the new Census numbers.

The Associated Press reports that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he "doesn't expect the results of the new census to have a 'huge practical impact' on national politics."

NPR quotes Gibbs as saying:

"I don't think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census has shifted seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from traditional democratic strongholds in the East and Midwest, to some of the republican strongholds in the South and West (see map above).

Apportionment map from U.S. Census data
U.S. Census Bureau

Update 1:30 p.m.:

It's confirmed. Michigan has NEVER lost population in U.S. Census data history. I asked Vince Kountz of the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit. He looked at the books and never saw population drop for the state of Michigan. He went back to the 1810 Census, before Michigan was a state. There were 4,762 people in the Michigan territory back then.

  • We had 9,938,444 people in the state in 2000
  • We now have 9,883,640 in the state in 2010.

12:02 p.m.:

The Census numbers are out. You can take a look at what they found with this map.

Congressman Mike Rogers will takeover as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The Associated Press reports:

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner says Michigan Republican Mike Rogers will serve as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the next Congress. Rogers said in a statement Wednesday he's humbled by the appointment and calls it an "incredible responsibility."  The 47-year-old Howell resident easily won a sixth term in November to represent Michigan's 8th Congressional District. Rogers is a former Army officer and FBI special agent who investigated organized crime and public corruption in Chicago in the early 1990s.

Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra
hoekstra.house.gov

Representative Pete Hoekstra came into office in the 103rd Congress in 1993. He's going out in the 111th Congress at the end of this year.

Hoekstra announced his retirement in December 2008 when he decided to run for Governor of Michigan.

He lost that bid to Rick Snyder and will soon be out of a political office after 17 years.

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial praising Hoekstra's tenure, saying,

Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.

For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons. 

But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over  the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.

But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.

Congressman Dave Camp with John Boehner.
user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Republican Dave Camp is the chairman-elect of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Camp released a statement saying it is a great honor to be selected as chairman:

"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."

The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Granholm says she supports President Obama’s compromise with Congressional Republicans on tax cuts.

Granholm said that the President got a ‘good deal’ by extending benefits for the long-term unemployed in exchange for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts.

Granholm said the deal will keep 180,000 people in Michigan from losing their income during the holidays:

I look at this as governor of the state with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and I'm grateful to the President for being a pragmatic leader... the collateral damage here in Michigan from not extending the unemployment benefits would be horrific.

Granholm made the comments during a White House conference call yesterday afternoon.

Jobless benefits will expire for tens of thousands of unemployed Michiganders this week unless Congress approves an extension.



Many of those losing their benefits are expected to turn to Michigan food banks and other non-profit groups.



"Those safety nets are really not prepared to take on all of these extra families," says Judy Putnam, with the Michigan League for Human Services."


The campaigns for Michigan candidates for Congress drew a lot of money from out of state. 

The price tag for the Congressional campaigns comes in at about $40 million.  Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.  He says the political parties in Washington, unions, and non-profits with anonymous contributors all chipped in.

“Of the $40 million, I’m estimating $16.8 million of that came from outside sources.”

Citypeek/Creative Commons

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced in April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

U.S. Capitol
user kulshrax / Creative Commons

Update 11:51pm: The 7th district has been called for Republican Tim Walberg.

11:03pm: Three congressional races in Michigan remain close. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that even with the aid of key precinct data, the Free Press was unable to immediately call winners in Michigan’s 15th, 7th and 9th congressional districts.

Michigan will have at least 4 freshman members of Congress after November’s general election.

But all that new blood means Michigan is losing something special in Washington...seniority.

By January,  Republicans Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers, and Democrats Bart Stupak and Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick will have packed up and moved out of their congressional offices in Washington. 

Hoekstra, Ehlers and Stupak voluntarily retired. Cheeks-Kilpatrick lost her party’s August primary.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Social Security sparked a spirited debate between the two major party candidates running for Michigan's 7th Congressional seat.

Incumbent Democrat Mark Schauer and Republican former congressman Tim Walberg are in a close race and social security is seen as a key issue.

John Dingell and Rahm Emanuel holding a paczki
Official photo from the United States Congress

This November Michigan voters will cast ballots in 15 races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Right now, two of those races are considered "toss-ups", according to NPR  - the race between Mark Schauer (D) and Tim Walberg (R)  in the 7th District, and the race between Dan Benishek (R) and Gary McDowell (D) in the 1st District.

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