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Democrat

Sen. Carl Levin (D)

Carl Levin Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-224-6221

Address: 269 RSOB, DC 20510

Carl Levin Committees
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Carl Levin Biography
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  • Elected: 1978, term expires 2014, 6th term.
  • State: Michigan
  • Born: Jun. 28, 1934, Detroit
  • Home: Detroit
  • Education:

    Swarthmore Col., B.A. 1956, Harvard U., J.D. 1959

  • 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.

  • Political Career:

    Detroit City Cncl., 1969–77, Pres., 1973–77.

  • Religion:

    Jewish

  • Family: Married (Barbara); 3 children

Democrat Carl Levin, first elected in 1978, is Michigan’s senior senator, a member of one of the state’s most respected political families, and the longest-serving U.S. senator in Michigan history. He brings an academic rigor to his role as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Compared to his 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. Read More

Democrat Carl Levin, first elected in 1978, is Michigan’s senior senator, a member of one of the state’s most respected political families, and the longest-serving U.S. senator in Michigan history. He brings an academic rigor to his role as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Compared to his 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.

Levin announced on March 7, 2013, that he would not seek a seventh term, saying he wanted to work on Armed Services and state-related issues “without the distraction of campaigning for reelection.” He had been considered a virtual lock to win reelection in 2014.

Levin grew up in Detroit with his older brother Sander, Michigan’s 9th District representative, the children of parents active in social justice issues who deeply admired Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. As a teenager, Carl worked the assembly line at a Chrysler DeSoto plant and later drove a taxicab. He graduated from Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, and 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 got out of the race and then back in. Levin won 52%-48%. In 1984, he won his first reelection by a similar margin, and since then, he has returned four times by wide margins.

Levin has been serving a second stint as chairman of Armed Services since January 2007, and he has built up an impressive expertise in military affairs. At the outset of the 113th Congress (2013-14), his chief job was to secure the confirmation of his former Republican Senate colleague, Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, as Defense secretary. Hagel touched off criticism from hawkish GOP senators who contended he had been antagonistic toward Israel and insufficiently committed to backing military action overseas. Levin, however, maintained that Hagel, as a decorated Vietnam veteran, would serve as a strong advocate for service members. Hagel ultimately was confirmed.

Levin often has worked to resolve heated differences among senators. A fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill included a provision by Levin and Arizona’s John McCain, then Armed Services’ top Republican, requiring military detention for captured suspected members of al-Qaida and its affiliates, including U.S. citizens. But Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., led a fierce campaign in December 2011 questioning the constitutionality of the requirement. She was backed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller in arguing the provision could permit the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without trial. With a White House veto threat lingering, Levin and McCain revised the bill to grant the administration greater discretion.

When President Barack Obama began reconsidering U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in September 2009, Levin argued against sending in more U.S. troops until an acceleration of training and equipping Afghan security forces took place, putting him in opposition to Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. Just before Obama announced his decision to send more troops in December, Levin questioned how that would increase the size of Afghan security forces. In mid-2011, he called for a drawdown of at least 15,000 troops by the end of the year, a number that McCain and other GOP hawks said was far too high. Levin expressed satisfaction with the subsequent pace of withdrawals.

Long opposed to the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, Levin put forces in motion in 2010 that led to repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He included a repeal measure in the 2010 defense authorization bill, and although McCain blocked the bill from getting to the floor in September, the repeal ultimately passed as a free-standing bill, 65 to 31. The House approved a similar measure, and the policy was repealed.

Levin was very dubious about the need for military action in Iraq in 2002 and argued fervently that any action should be multilateral. He also argued that military action was not necessary because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could be deterred from using weapons of mass destruction if he had them. He offered an alternative resolution calling on the Bush administration to get the United Nations to adopt a more vigorous weapons inspection program, but 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-Qaida and ignored corrections requested by the Central Intelligence Agency. In late 2006, Levin described the situation in Iraq as “a low-grade civil war” and called for a phased redeployment. He praised Obama in October 2011 for calling for a complete pullout of troops by the end of the year.

Levin has been a sharp-eyed overseer of the Pentagon, joining with McCain, 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 John Warner, R-Va., won approval in 2003 of a proposal to lease only 20 of the aircraft and purchase 80 others to keep the total cost down. Levin has been the Senate’s most persistent critic of efforts over the years to build a missile defense system. He dismissed a House initiative in June 2012 to deploy a missile defense site on the nation’s East Coast as “a replay of an old Cold War debate.” The subsequent fiscal 2013 defense bill he steered into law contained a compromise that allowed sites to be evaluated but stopped short of deployment.

Levin has also weighed in on intelligence matters. He objected to the National Security Agency surveillance of communications between al-Qaida suspects abroad and people in the United States. Although he supported closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States has detained suspected terrorists, he conceded in June 2010 that it would probably remain open for the foreseeable future. He joined McCain and Feinstein in publicly stating that the 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty inaccurately overstated the importance of the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspects in the mission to find Osama bin Laden.

Levin generally has a liberal record 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 urged Obama in November 2011 to keep Japan from participating in free trade talks, saying the policies of the Asian automaker amount to “a U.S. job killer.” He supported the 2008 loan guarantees and government help for General Motors and Chrysler when they were on the brink of bankruptcy. Michigan touches all but one of the Great Lakes, which have been threatened by an invasive species of carp. In 2010, he and Ohio Republican George Voinovich got the Senate to pass a bill adding the bighead carp to the list of injurious species.

In 2007, Levin opposed the increase in fuel standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 under consideration in the Senate, and his 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 the bill, which eventually passed. As alternative-fuel vehicles have taken off in popularity and availability, Levin in 2010 called for separate standards for plug-in hybrid cars, all-electric vehicles, and fuel-cell vehicles. A one-size-fits-all fuel economy standard, Levin said, “forces auto manufacturers to focus on incremental improvements rather than dramatic leaps forward.”

As the chairman of the Governmental Affairs Investigations Subcommittee, Levin has been deeply involved in efforts in recent years to stop abuses on Wall Street. The panel issued a bipartisan report in April 2011 with 19 recommendations for changes to regulatory and industry practices, such as creating strong conflict-of-interest policies at banks. He has won bipartisan praise for his thorough preparation for hearings as well as his methodical interrogations. “You have to really know a subject if you are going to examine, or cross-examine, a witness,” he told National Journal. “You have to know it all for that one moment that the witness is on the stand. You must master the technical stuff.” In April 2010, he held hearings into allegations that Goldman Sachs had sold its clients mortgage-backed securities that it knew were unlikely to succeed.

The panel also helped block the efforts of a group of giant multinationals— including Apple, Google, Merck, Microsoft, and Pfizer—that lobbied for a tax holiday on offshore investments. After Levin held hearings in 2007 into the “abusive practices and excesses” of the credit card industry, bank executives agreed to end some of them, but Levin continued to push for legislative restrictions. In May 2010, with Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, Levin pushed to amend the financial regulation bill with a more stringent ban on proprietary trading, and a similar provision was ultimately passed as part of the overhaul of financial services law that year.

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Carl Levin Election Results
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2008 General
Carl Levin (D)
Votes: 3,038,386
Percent: 62.66%
Spent: $8,632,073
Jack Hoogendyk
Votes: 1,641,070
Percent: 33.85%
Spent: $297,747
2008 Primary
Carl Levin (D)
Votes: 561,676
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2002 (61%); 1996 (58%); 1990 (57%); 1984 (52%); 1978 (52%)
Carl Levin Votes and Bills
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National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 93 (L) : - (C) 72 (L) : 25 (C) 69 (L) : 25 (C)
Social 66 (L) : 32 (C) 64 (L) : - (C) 50 (L) : 48 (C)
Foreign 58 (L) : 36 (C) 68 (L) : 19 (C) 54 (L) : 45 (C)
Composite 74.8 (L) : 25.2 (C) 76.7 (L) : 23.3 (C) 59.2 (L) : 40.8 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC140
LCV91100
CFG53
ITIC-75
NTU77
20112012
COC45-
ACLU-75
ACU08
ADA9595
AFSCME100-
Key Senate Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Block faith exemptions
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve gas pipeline
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve farm bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Let cyber bill proceed
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Block Gitmo transfers
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass balanced budget amendment
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Stop EPA climate regulations
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Proceed to Cordray vote
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Require talking filibuster
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Limit Fannie/Freddie
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Ratify New START
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Confirm Elena Kagan
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop EPA climate regs
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $787 billion stimulus
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Repeal DC gun laws
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Confirm Sonia Sotomayor
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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