2012-07-07 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Stabenow Again Works Across The Aisle
By George Weeks

During these excessively partisan times in Washington, I’ve been on the alert for Michigan politicians on Capitol Hill who go against the ugly flow and cooperate with the opposition party on occasion for the public good.

For example, Representative Dave Camp (R-Midland), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow introduced commendable companion legislation to get the feds off the dime on battling Asian carp.

(On Friday, Congress passed legislation setting an 18-month deadline for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete its plan for preventing Asian carp migrations at 18 entry points, including Chicago-area rivers and canals that flow into Lake Michigan. Camp said it “puts us on the path towards a lasting solution.”)

In late June, Stabenow, chairing the Senate Agriculture Committee, won acclaim from Senate Minority Leader Mitch Mc- Connell, (R-Kentucky) for a “fabulous” joint effort with the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, on a five-year, half-trillion dollar farm and food Senate passed bill that ends direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they actually plant crops.

McConnell said Stabenow and Roberts “worked together very skillfully… This is a very fine day in the recent history of the Senate. “

Politico said it well: “Don’t look now, but the Senate’s actually working. “

Stabenow said the bill “represents the greatest reform in agriculture in decades.”

Among state kudos for the bill were from the Michigan Farm Bureau, and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, and the Leelanau Conservancy for the bill’s promotion of land trusts.

According to the Associated Press, the bill reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years, including $4 billion in savings from federal food stamp costs.

The AP also notes, however, that obstacles to passage are greater in the GOP-controlled House.

Not surprisingly, Stabenow’s achievement was in submerged in media coverage by two far more dramatic events:

•Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member held in contempt of Congress when the House voted 255-67 for a GOP motion stemming from Holder not providing information sought on a botched federal gun-tracking operation.

•The U.S. Supreme Court’s surprising decision upholding the key point of President Barack Obama’s congressionally approved plan to extend health care to all citizens.

The Holder flap is not likely to be an issue in Stabenow’s bid for a third term. But Obamacare certainly will be. Ex-U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra, the leading contender for the GOP nomination to oppose her, has made that clear.

Ex-U.S. 1st District Representative Bart Stupak (D-Menominee), who was a key vote and negotiator in Obama winning approval of the 2010 health care reform bill, told The Detroit News he felt validated by the court ruling. He called it “a big win for the American people.”

Doctor Dan”

That’s how staffers of freshman Representative Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) refer to their boss, who replaced Stupak.. That figures. He’s been a practicing physician for 30 years.

As such, he has strong views on Obamacare, calling it, in a chat we had last week, “bad medicine.”

Benishek has been a leader in Washington on a subject that deserves more attention than it has received—medical and other programs for returning veterans.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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