tv Congressional Career of Senator Carl Levin CSPAN November 30, 2014 1:40pm-2:10pm EST
my friends in the senate, my staff. i have a fabulous staff and a lot of good friends. we will miss our house. we will miss capitol hill. we like living on capitol hill, we are urban people. we live in the city of detroit, that has always been my home, but we have got a wonderful neighborhood here. we have a wonderful eastern market where we love to shop. there are some things here that i will miss. i won't miss the excessive partisanship. the unwillingness of some to compromise, ideological rigidity. i won't miss that. but i will miss my colleagues. it is a great job. i am not leaving because of the job, i love the job. i love every minute of it, even when there is too much bickering going on. i have got a fabulous job. that is going to be hard to leave. >> legislatively, what sticks out in your mind? >> as much as we've accomplished and 36 years, i don't want to
look back at that so much as to look forward to the next couple months. and the next couple months, there are a couple things i would like to do. one is get my defense authorization bill passed. it is a major effort involving hundreds of provisions that need to be first addressed by the senate, hopefully. then addressed in conference with the house. this is a massive annual job. we need to get that job. our troops deserve it, their families deserve it. i also want to finish up some work on the subcommittee of investigations, looking at gimmicks which are used to avoid taxes. some gimmicks which are used to get people, particularly large banks, certain special advantages over the rest of the world. i have spent a lot of time looking at that. there is some work that needs to be done there, as well. the biggest part, which will probably be undone, or left undone, will be what i call the unjustified tax loopholes. everyone talks about tax reform. everybody says they are for tax
reform. when you start looking at what are the credits in the tax code, the deductions in the tax code, that should be closed, people then say -- wait a minute, that provision serves a useful purpose, this provision serves a useful purpose, that other provision serves a useful purpose. the truth of the matter is that most of the tax code serves a useful purpose. most of the tax code does things like give your child care credit, deductions or credit for charitable contributions, for mortgage expenses, for accelerated depreciation, for energy conservation. i favor those things, those are useful. they serve an economic or social purpose. what i am focused on at the
permanent subcommittee on investigations, on a bipartisan basis -- because i have worked with the ranking republican -- now that john mccain is the ranking republican, we have worked together to look at the tax loopholes that don't serve any justified or economic purpose. there is no economic purpose served when microsoft or apple are able to shift their revenue to puerto rico to avoid paying taxes. there is no economic purpose served when one of these new, intellectual property giants -- they produce good stuff, i am not quarreling with apple. they create wonderful products. my quarrel is the way they avoid paying taxes on those profits, and shifting profits and their intellectual property to themselves, to their own corporations and tax havens to avoid paying taxes. those are the loopholes that we need to close, and we need the revenue in order to avoid another round of sequestration, which is there's absolutely mindless way to budget, where everything gets cut, including the national institutes of health.
we are in the middle of an ebola problem. research has been cut at the national institute of health. because of this sequestration method of budgeting, which has an automatic, cookie-cutter approach. we have got to end that, and most of us -- not all of us -- not the tea party guys, the libertarian guys -- but most of us really want to end sequestration. from whatever perspective, whether it is domestic programs,
infrastructure, roads, health care, so forth, or whether it is from the national security perspective. we need to close the unjustified tax loopholes that don't serve any economic purpose, in part to use that revenue in order to make sure we do what we need to do in important areas such as national security, education, and so forth. we probably can't finish that. a lot of republicans will join with me after the election, for those who really believe in what i am saying to do it before the election. hopefully in a lame-duck session we can at least set the table to get tax reform done in the right way, not so that revenues can be used to reduce tax rates for people who don't need a tax rate reduction. in order to come up with a different approach to a budget so that we can do whatever deficit reduction we want to do on a much more logical way. >> senator, 1978, what made you run? >> a lot of things that. my wife whispered in my ear that i should run for senate. i have known a local official in
detroit for years before it ran. i love my hometown. detroit has a lot of problems, and one of the problems that had was 20,000 vacant houses owned by the government. they were open to trespass, used as dope dens and other things. we had a huge battle going on with the housing and urban development department. i wanted them to act and they wouldn't act to remove all those houses. this was a big issue and it still is. so, they said, they could not remove the houses. we can't tear the down the way we would tear down a privately owned house. i had a big battle, and i wanted to take that sentiment to washington, that i have to be a strong supporter of what they were trying to do, which was create housing.
i am a democrat, i believe there is a useful role for that. but i am also someone who has seen waste in government. i wanted congress to have the power to veto regulations of the bureaucracy. i didn't want to be told by my elected official, we can to do anything about it, go to some federal agency in chicago or something. i wanted my elected official to be accountable to me, as a citizen of detroit and an elected official. that was something i felt very keenly about, to take the spirit to washington, that, yes, if we wanted to preserve what is really good and important about government, the opportunities of education that it can provide, the infrastructure that can provide, the health care which it should guarantee, the research on diseases which -- if we want to preserve that, we have got to take care of the wasteful part. the part that is frustrating to people because it is, at times, seeming so distant and rigid, one-size-fits-all.
that is what i wanted to bring to washington. it was a major part of the campaign. it wasn't one thing which may be want to run for office here in washington, but i would say my experience as a local official in detroit was a major part of it. >> was it a surprise that you -- >> senator, 1978, what made you run? >> a lot of things that. my wife whispered in my ear that i should run for senate. i have known a local official in detroit for years before it ran. i love my hometown. detroit has a lot of problems,
and one of the problems that had was 20,000 vacant houses owned by the government. they were open to trespass, used as dope dens and other things. we had a huge battle going on with the housing and urban development department. i wanted them to act and they wouldn't act to remove all those houses. this was a big issue and it still is. so, they said, they could not remove the houses. we can't tear the down the way we would tear down a privately owned house. i had a big battle, and i wanted to take that sentiment to washington, that i have to be a strong supporter of what they were trying to do, which was create housing. i am a democrat, i believe there is a useful role for that. but i am also someone who has seen waste in government. i wanted congress to have the power to veto regulations of the bureaucracy.
i didn't want to be told by my elected official, we can to do anything about it, go to some federal agency in chicago or something. i wanted my elected official to be accountable to me, as a citizen of detroit and an elected official. that was something i felt very keenly about, to take the spirit to washington, that, yes, if we wanted to preserve what is really good and important about government, the opportunities of education that it can provide, the infrastructure that can provide, the health care which it should guarantee, the research on diseases which -- if we want to preserve that, we have got to take care of the wasteful part. the part that is frustrating to people because it is, at times, seeming so distant and rigid,
one-size-fits-all. that is what i wanted to bring to washington. it was a major part of the campaign. it wasn't one thing which may be want to run for office here in washington, but i would say my experience as a local official in detroit was a major part of it. >> was it a surprise that you won? >> not to my wife, not to me, not to a whole bunch of supporters. but it was always a close race, going in. it was something of an upset. it wasn't a total upset, but it was something of an upset. >> senator levin, how did you end up on the armed services committee? >> i felt that was kind of a gap in my life. i wanted to learn more about the
military. i had always had respect for the military, at what had happened in vietnam. but what happened after vietnam was unfair to the troops. i wanted to learn more. right away, i went to the armed services committee. the three committees i joined are the same three committees i am on. that was the main reason that i wanted -- i wanted to learn. it has been a great learning experience. it has really increased my appreciation and respect for what our men and women in uniform do for us. and not just military people, but the military leadership is so often so far advanced from civilian leaders in terms of war and life and death issues.
there is a much greater caution on the part of military leaders to go to war than some of our civilian leaders. some of the civilian leaders, too ready to go to war without understanding complexities, the history that may have gotten various countries where they are, the risks that are taken. so i have come not just for men and women in uniform but for the military leaders of our country. they think deeply about war and peace. they are also great diplomats, many are terrific diplomat. >> when it comes to the military spending issue, are we spending too much? it is sort of a macro question that you can break down -- but are we spending too much? too little? >> we spent too little in some areas. some of our modernization programs, on nuclear program -- too much money being spent. i don't think we need thousands of nuclear weapons. you can't use one, really. they are useful to deter, that
is about it. during the cold war, they were a deterrence. we spent a lot of money on our nuclear weapons. and we continue to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that we have. i think we are going to have to make some difficult reforms in terms of some of the costs that we have. it is not a black-and-white issue at all in terms of military spending, because there are some areas where we have cut too deep. we can hopefully remedy that, but at the same time, we have to keep going on the reform peace, including acquisition reform. senator mccain and i were leading the way, at least in the senate, on acquisition reform, to make sure that the level of cost was brought down. it was much too much. we had done some of that with some success. there are some areas where you have stuff that we are spending too much money for. but in terms of the amount of
competition that we have, we passed the competition in contracting act many years ago, which was very important. but also this acquisition reform act. we led the way in the senate on a bipartisan basis. it was a very important reform and we have to keep trying to get rid of the waste that exists in the pentagon, in an operation that size there will be raced but you have to keep fighting it. >> when you want to go have dinner, who are some of your friends here? who do you call? >> i don't want to pick on anyone. i resist on that, totally. we don't go out to dinner very much with people. that part of our life seems to have dwindled. much more when we came here over the years, whatever the time pressure was, whatever the reason, there is less of that that goes on. i have too much respect for too many.
and oh i will regret it and kick myself and say how could i have mentioned him without mentioning her. >> let's go to presidents, then. it was the president that you have enjoyed working with and haven't enjoyed working with? >> i've worked to a degree with all the presidents. i haven't had a bad relationship with any president, for
starters. i think president obama is very, very thoughtful, very careful. does how to weigh pros and cons and gets along very well. i thought president clinton was unusual in terms of his ability, not just a think through issues and he has got a heck of a great mind, but he also had the ability -- has the ability, still very vigorously -- to connect with people on a personal way.
people will tell you, if you are in a room with 100 people and bill clinton and you go from person to person, you will think he is the only one in the room that is aware of you. that is the kind of unusual ability that he has to connect with people. he is sympathetic in a very genuine way, the underdog, which i have always liked and admired in him. he has a sensitivity to people
and their basic needs. again, i have gotten along with all the presidents to varying degrees. i don't want to say anything negative. i disagreed with the second president bush more than anyone. i disagreed very strongly on the iraq war. it was a policy issue, not a personal issue. i voted against going to war because i thought it was based on misrepresentations, particularly by vice president cheney, these allegations which were untrue at the time, known to be untrue by the intelligence committee. there was some connection between al qaeda and saddam hussein. that allegation was not true, and it was repeated over and over again, particularly by vice president cheney. that, i thought, was really wrong. they created some real tension between us. i won't say it was physical, particularly, but i have been very critical and very hard on vice president cheney. i think you really was the main
leader that got us into that war. it was at the weapons of mass destruction issue, because i thought that saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but i still voted against the war. you don't attack people because they have weapons of mass destruction, or else we would have attacked the soviet union, or we would have been attacked by them, or we would've attacked pakistan, or pakistan would have attacked india. just because we had thought he had those weapons of mass destruction, it does not give us reason to attack them. it is only if he threatens to use them against you. then you say, "ok." what was presented to the american people before the iraq war which has given me the greatest heartburn with the second bush administration was the representation to the american people, including at the u.n., unwittingly by general powell, who tried to get rid of the stuff that was not supportable.
he still ended up with statements in there which were not accurate. but he tried to weed out the stuff before he made his presentation to the u.n. so i am not as critical, obviously, of general powell, as i am of vice president dick cheney. >> is it tough to understand some of the issues that 535 members of the senate and the house have to deal with? they get pretty complex at times. >> oh yeah! there are issues that you are not familiar with. i have had issues involving tax
codes and wall street and technical issues with the economy, and i have spent years studying stuff. there are lots of issues in the defense area, at some of my colleagues have some responsibility to know information in depth, but there are energy issues which are technical which are a mystery to me which i have to get stuff on. when the staff comes to me and says there is a vote tomorrow on something and here are the pros and cons, i say probably 70% of the things around here are things that you are not in the middle of and your committee assignments have information that you are not familiar and you have to take a position on. but that is where my fabulous staff comes in. we really rely on our staff. heavily.
>> you have a brother who supports you? >> of yes, he has been my best buddy. he is my best supporter. and my wife is a good buddy as well. >> barbara? >> yes. but yes, he is an amazing member of the house of representatives, and his colleagues just rave about him. he is just reaching out to his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. he is really a nice guy. he is really a wonderful guy. the best big brother that anybody ever had. >> come 2015, what is your advice? who is the senator who will take over for you, what would you advise? >> i think he knows where the traps are, and he is aware the mistakes that would be, which would mainly be to think that this is the house of representatives. it isn't. majority does not rule in the senate. the minority rights which exist
here for a very good reason and have served a very good purpose can also be abused, and they have been abused by these filibuster threats that are used by these new tea party-connected members. they get something there that goes there way that should not go their way. it needs to be used with some discretion so that the majority does not react by trying to restrict totally the rights of the minority.
that is what is the problem here, because there were some abuses and excesses by some of the republicans, just some of them, we had to -- the majority here thought that he had to do what he did, which in turn has created some problems. but i would say, and know this is not the house that we allow rules, because the majority could take hold next year, there are rules that could change. >> what are your retirement years, and what are your plans? and where are your papers going? >> my papers are going to the university of michigan, that is the easy part of your question. and i have two and half months of really hard work ahead of me. so we are going to save the hard decisions about what i will do for later, but we know we are going to go home, and we have a lot more time to spend with their three kids and six grandkids. >> senator carl levin, democrat
of michigan, retiring after six terms. >> thank you. less than a month remains in the current congressional session. item on the agenda this week includes funding the government passed the summer 11th, which is went current spending expires. the house will also consider how to move forward on immigration. senators begin the week by voting on nominees to be ambassador to argentina and hungary. as always, you can watch the house live on c-span and the senate on c-span2. democratic senator mary landrieu and republican bill cassidy will face one another tomorrow in the final debate in the louisiana senate race. the less than a week for
december 6 runoff election. you can watch the debate tomorrow night on c-span2. >> there are a few of the comments that we have received from our viewers. >> i must say, "washington journal" first thing in the morning absolutely wonderful. very informative. i really appreciate you guys letting people such as myself actually call in and sometimes who arek to people running our country and the whole world. >> i feel like you guys do a good job. just laying it out on the table and not usey to see any preferential treatment. i appreciate you all.
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commercialism that it really gets to be unbearable. so i don't know what i would do without c-span. i love it. it on my tv all day long. thank you. >> continue to let us know what you think about the programs you are watching. call us. us or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. now the capitol dome restoration project. the architect of the capital, the restoration project manager, and john hoeven who served on the senate appropriations committee. we also see workers demonstrate some of the techniques that will be used to repair the more than 1300 crocs in the structure. this is 30 minutes.