Sen. Carl Levin (D)
Elected: 1978, term expires 2014, 6th term.
Born: June 28, 1934, Detroit .
Education: Swarthmore Col., B.A. 1956, Harvard U., J.D. 1959.
Family: Married (Barbara); 3 children.
Elected office: Detroit City Cncl., 1969–77, Pres., 1973–77.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1959–64, 1971–73, 1978–79; MI asst. atty. gen. & gen. cnsl., MI Civil Rights Comm., 1964–67; Detroit chief appellate defender, 1967–69.
Democrat Carl Levin, first elected in 1978, is a member of one of Michigan’s most respected political families and the longest-serving senator in state history. His older brother, Democrat Sander Levin, is Michigan’s 12th District representative. Compared to his natty Senate colleagues, Levin is often rumpled and a bit tardy with a haircut, but also compared to many of the rest, he is articulate without political artifice, and he takes unpopular stands on issues. He grew up in Detroit, graduated from Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, then went to work as counsel for the state Civil Rights Commission in the turbulent 1960s. After a stint as a public defender, Levin was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1969 with substantial support from both blacks and whites. In 1978, he ran for the U.S. Senate and was helped when Republican incumbent Robert Griffin indecisively got out of the race and then back in. Levin won 52%-48%. In 1984, he won his first re-election by a similar margin, and since then, he has returned four times by wide margins. Before Levin, Republican Arthur Vandenberg had held the record as a senator from Michigan, serving 23 years in office.
|Carl Levin (D)||3,038,386||(63%)||($5,784,520)|
|Jack Hoogendyk (R)||1,641,070||(34%)||($301,993)|
|Carl Levin (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2002 (61%), 1996 (58%), 1990 (57%), 1984 (52%), 1978 (52%)
Levin is chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He has the skepticism of large-scale defense spending and military involvements common among Democrats in the 1970s and has built up an impressive expertise in military affairs. Levin was very dubious about the need for military action in Iraq in 2002 and argued fervently that any action should be multilateral. He argued in September 2002 that military action was not necessary because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could be deterred from using weapons of mass destruction if he had them and that in any case, the United States should not act without approval of the United Nations. He offered an alternative resolution calling on the Bush administration to get the UN to adopt a more vigorous weapons-inspection program, but not authorizing military action until it was approved by the UN. It was defeated 75-24. In 2004, Levin issued a report charging that Pentagon official Douglas Feith deliberately exaggerated ties between Hussein and the terrorist group Al Qaeda, and ignored corrections requested by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In June 2006, Levin and Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed sponsored an amendment calling for a “phased redeployment” of U.S. troops in Iraq in six months, with no deadline for withdrawal; it also called for U.S. forces to transition to training Iraqi security forces. A more extreme alternative, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s amendment calling for withdrawal by July 2007, was defeated 86-13. But the Levin-Reed amendment also lost, 60-39. In late 2006, Levin described the situation in Iraq as “a low-grade civil war” and called for a bipartisan resolution supporting phased redeployment. “We have to force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own nation, that we cannot save them from themselves,” he said. “The president himself believes that what I’m saying is a useful thing for the Iraqis to hear.” In December 2006, he called for implementation of the Iraq Study Group report, which he said could be “the beginning of a development of a new, realistic, bipartisan and hopefully successful approach.” Despite his disagreements with administration policy, he voted to confirm the nomination of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying Gates was a “welcome break of honest, candid realism.” In May 2007, Levin opposed a redeployment measure sponsored by Democrats Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Harry Reid of Nevada that set a deadline for troops to be out of Iraq and cut funding thereafter\. “I can’t support a cutoff on funding and I cannot support a fixed date for removing all troops,” he said. Even though it was clear that he could not get the 60 votes needed to force a vote—let alone the two-thirds majority needed to override a certain Bush veto—Levin continued to work with Reed on proposals to mandate the withdrawal of most U.S. troops within roughly 12 months. In 2008, the Senate continued to be deadlocked on troop redeployments from Iraq.
Levin has been a sharp-eyed overseer of the Pentagon, joining with Republican John McCain of Arizona in strongly questioning the Pentagon’s leasing, rather than purchase, of KC-767 refueling tankers from Boeing. After e-mails obtained by McCain revealed improper negotiations between the Air Force and Boeing, Levin, McCain and Virginia Republican John Warner won approval in November 2003 of a proposal to lease only 20 of the aircraft and purchase 80 others, to keep the total cost down. In March 2004, Levin, McCain and Warner, disturbed by a Pentagon audit, imposed a hold on the entire project. Another of Levin’s issues is the condition of the Army. During hearings in 2004, he said that the Army was stretched too thin, that there were not enough soldiers and protective gear in Iraq, that too many personnel were held in the service by stop-loss orders, and that the Army was not adequately replacing old equipment. Levin has been the Senate’s most persistent critic of Republican-led efforts over the years to build a missile defense system for the United States. In 2001, he got the Armed Services Committee to move over $1 billion from missile defense to anti-terrorism programs. And in 2002, he got the committee to approve a defense-authorization bill that cut the Bush administration’s missile-defense request by $812 million, though the Senate ultimately gave Bush the authority to restore the cuts. In 2004, Levin opposed $500 million in the defense budget for missile defense.
He has also weighed in on intelligence matters. He won passage of an amendment to the intelligence reorganization bill requiring the national intelligence director to be independent of the White House. He also objected to the National Security Agency surveillance of communications between Qaeda suspects abroad and people in the United States. In the intelligence realm, he has worked on laws for whistleblower protection, competition in government contracting and lobbying disclosure.
Levin generally has one of the most liberal records in the Senate, with some Michigan accents. He opposed the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, which the powerful labor unions in Michigan were fighting, and over the years, he has called for crackdowns on tax avoidance by foreign automakers and on Chinese and Japanese currency manipulation. He also has stood in the way of Democratic efforts to significantly raise fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. In 2006, he called for the U.S. Department of Transportation rather than Congress to set fuel mileage standards and said the Bush administration’s new light-truck standards were “reasonable.” In 2007, he opposed the increase in fuel standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 that had passed the Senate Commerce Committee. Congress passed the tougher standards in December 2007, but Levin’s resistance increased the leverage of then House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat, in gaining some concessions for the automobile industry.
In 2007, Levin held hearings on the “abusive practices and excesses” of the credit card industry. Some bank executives agreed to end some of the practices, but Levin continued to push for legislative restrictions. Also that year, with then-Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, he filed a bill to impose sanctions on corporations that operate offshore shelters to avoid taxes.
Michigan touches all but one of the Great Lakes, which have been threatened by invasive species. The zebra mussel has wiped out many native species, and Asian carp are making their way up the Illinois River and threatening to enter the lakes. In 2006, Levin worked with Ohio Republican Mike DeWine to reauthorize the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, and in October 2006, he celebrated the return, after eight decades, of whitefish to the Detroit River. Levin also sponsored a Great Lakes trust fund to pay for cleaning up the lakes, restoring wetlands and repelling invasive species. Also in 2006, he and fellow Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow negotiated an agreement with Ontario officials to stop by 2010 shipments of 415 truckloads a day of Canadian trash into Michigan.
When Levin ran for re-election in 2008, GOP state Chairman Saul Anuzis said the party would field a strong candidate. But Republican Reps. Candice Miller and Mike Rogers declined to run. Republicans nominated state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, who waged a token challenge, and Levin breezed by, 63%-34%.