Senate Floor Speeches on Sen. Carl Levin's 12,000th Vote

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader is recognized.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, a few minutes ago Senator Carl Levin cast his 12,000th vote. It is my honor to say a few words about Carl Levin. He has served the State of Michigan for 35 years and is the longest serving Senator in the history of that State. During his 35 years in the Senate, he has been known as a workhorse. If there is a problem that needs to be looked over by someone who understands the issue, go to Senator Levin. He is a person who dots all the I's and crosses all the T's. I depend--and have depended--on him so much for issues that are difficult.

He is a native of Detroit and attended Swathmore College. He graduated--as I always remind him--from Harvard Law School. I called them several times, but obviously my application was lost. I never heard back from them.

He served as general counsel to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and as assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan. He ran for the Detroit City Council and served two terms there. He was elected in 1978 to the U.S. Senate where he has served six terms and is an effective champion for the people of Michigan.

Public service runs in his family. Sander Levin is his older brother, who came to the House of Representatives in 1982 with me, Durbin, Carper, Boxer, to name just a few.

Senator Levin has heard me say this several times, and I will continue to say it because it is one of the most impressive, memorable statements I have ever had in a very personal setting. I was in the House of Representatives, and I was thinking about running for the Senate. I went over to meet with Carl Levin to get his ideas. As I was trying to establish some rapport with him, I said: I am serving with your brother. He and I came here together. Without hesitation and so sincerely, he looked up at me and said: Yes, he is my brother, but he is also my best friend.

I have never, ever forgotten that. That speaks so well of the Levin family. Sandy has been the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and is now the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Carl is very proud of his brother's service, as Sandy is proud of the service of his brother.

Carl Levin has been the chair of the Armed Services Committee, which of course is one of the most important and powerful committees in the entire Congress. He is a respected voice on issues dealing with national security. He has done so much to improve the status of men and women in the military for our great country.

The very first bill he introduced as a Senator speaks to the kind of person he is and the issues he cares about. He introduced a bill to end discrimination by credit card companies. Two Congresses ago we did some real good reforms during the credit card debate. Senator Levin was involved in that, as well he should have been, because he was the first to bring to the attention of the American people what needed to be done.

He is also the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which for decades has done great work for this country. Under his guidance and leadership, it has done some remarkably good work. He was the one who delved deeply into the Enron collapse. Again, that committee has done a lot of work on abusive credit card practices. It is one of the main reasons we were able to get the credit card reform done.

He led investigations in the 2008 financial crisis. He has looked very closely and did a wonderful report on what I refer to as tax loopholes, and I think that is how he refers to it also. He has been one of the country's leading experts--and certainly one of the leading experts in this body--of American manufacturers. We know that manufacturing has had such strong forces in Michigan in years past and they are coming back as a result of the work the Michigan delegation has done, led by Senator Levin.

He is someone who understands that we have a new world, we have global markets, and we have to continue working hard to make sure we are a part of that, and we are.

He has fought to protect the Great Lakes--Michigan's signature natural resource.

He is married to Barbara, a wonderful woman, who has been so thoughtful and kind to me, but especially my wife, during her recent illness. They have been married since 1961. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.

Carl Levin is somebody whom I so admire. He has a lot of service left in him. There are so many things he is capable of doing as a result of the positions he now holds in the Senate. The one thing I admire so much about Carl Levin--as I have already indicated--is how strongly he feels about his family. He and his brother have a piece of property in Michigan. They call it the tree farm. In Searchlight, I still have my hat they gave me that says “Tree Farm.”' He has talked to me on many occasions--we haven't talked lately--about how he and his brother like to walk on their tree farm. There is nothing there but trees, but it is an occasion for them to be together as brothers.

Congratulations to Carl Levin on reaching this impressive milestone of 12,000 votes. Not only has he left that mark--he left that mark in my mind and anyone who has served with him--but he has left his mark as being an extraordinary man.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, it has been my honor to have served with the senior Senator from Michigan for almost three decades now, and I too want to rise and congratulate him on achieving this milestone. There is no Member of the Senate who is brighter or more hard working. We have had a good example of that here in the last couple of months of Senator Levin's respect for the institution and his desire to protect the traditions of this institution. I want him to know that he is widely respected all throughout the Senate, and particularly on this side of the aisle.

I congratulate him for this important achievement and look forward to working with him in the future.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise to congratulate my friend and colleague, the senior Senator from Michigan. This is the day he has cast his 12,000th vote. What is most significant is not the quantity of his votes, but the quality of his votes. Each one of those has had Michigan's face on it when he cast those votes.

As our majority leader indicated, Senator Levin has been a champion for the automotive industry, manufacturing, his beloved Detroit, our beautiful and wonderful Great Lakes, the Department of Defense and, more particularly, the men and women who serve us every day.

I rise on behalf of everyone in Michigan to say how proud we are of Senator Levin. We have great confidence in his judgment, integrity, and hard work. In my book, there is nobody better.

Of course, I am very thrilled with the wonderful family he and Barbara have. He is ahead of me on grandchildren, but I am working on it. He is not only someone with the right ethics, integrity, and love for his family, nobody fights harder and does the right thing for Michigan more than Carl Levin.

I join in congratulating him. Once again I want to say it is not about the number of votes but the quality of votes. Every one of those 12,000 votes has had Michigan's name on it.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan.

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, first I want to thank my dear colleague from Michigan, Senator Stabenow. We have worked so closely together on Michigan issues. She is one great partner, and I am proud to represent Michigan with her at my side and her as a partner.

Talking about partners, my wife Barbara has been married to me for 51 years, and she is my lifelong--excuse me. I have to straighten this out. My brother is my lifelong best buddy. He was there when I was born. I have to modify what Senator Reid said. For the last 51 years, my wife has been my best buddy, and my brother has been my second-best buddy, but I am blessed with family. I would like to thank everyone for mentioning my family.

I am blessed with a staff that is led by David Lyles. I have great friendships here in this body and there is no substitute for the kind of friendships and relationships which make this body work. Even when it doesn't appear to be working, it is working. I know the public gets frustrated with us at times, but this is an extraordinarily resilient body.

Many times during the 34 years I have been here there have been periods when we have been frustrated in terms of getting our work done, but we pull through in this wonderful, noble institution. This venerable institution is being protected here by people who love it, and I cherish those relationships with the people who do cherish this body and what it uniquely stands for in the world. There is no other body like it in the world. I only wish that people such as Robert Byrd and Danny Inouye could live forever to help protect this body, but that is not the case.

I want to mention one other thing. I am very grateful to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell for their comments. I wanted to speak about something Senator McConnell referenced.

A few weeks ago this body did something which was very bipartisan and very essential to its health and its survival, and that was to make sure we continue to protect the minority but not to overprotect the few Members if those Members take excessive advantage of our rules.

Eight of us got together. Senator McCain and I pulled together three Democrats and three Republicans. For many weeks we worked together, without staff, and came up with an alternative which the leaders used to work through this complicated situation we found ourselves in relative to the rules.

On the Democratic side, we had Senator Schumer, Senator Cardin, and Senator Pryor, and on the Republican side we had Senator Alexander, Senator Kyl, and Senator Barrasso join Senator McCain and me. I believe it was one of the most important things we have done in recent years here, which was to change the procedures. They were not working. They were being used to frustrate efforts to get legislation to the floor.

We had to do that. We had to do something to change the rules which were being misused in terms of post-cloture hours. There were judges who were going to be approved by votes of 95 to 1 or 2, and those post-cloture hours were being used to stall the Senate. We took care of that situation. We acted on a bipartisan basis, and hopefully that spirit of bipartisanship, which is so essential to making this place work, will continue and be given a boost not just by what the leaders essentially did in accepting our recommendations on these procedural changes but will now apply and work with other efforts that will be underway in this Congress.

I want to mention that because eight of us, on a bipartisan basis, did something which we believe very deeply about as a way of avoiding what was called the nuclear option. If that were used, it would have led to a change in a way which was not provided for in the rules. Under the rules, this is a continuing body. If that were used, it could have gone around the rules and essentially put the Presiding Officer in the position of ignoring the advice of our Parliamentarian and saying that we could, by majority vote, do something which our rules say could only be done by two-thirds of us. That would have done severe, long-lasting damage to this institution. We were able to avoid that, Democrats and Republicans--well beyond the eight of us--including the Presiding Officer, who was so helpful to me in working through this idea and giving me suggestions. I am very grateful to him for the kind of suggestions and conversations we had. We were able to work through an issue on a bipartisan basis and then the body came together and about 80 or more voted for these procedural changes.

I thought it was a great day, personally. I know that. I know the eight of us feel very strongly about the important contribution we made to this body, working together. So we feel very good about it. I hope over time some of the people who were critical of it will see it as being a significant advance in making this body work better, allowing us to work our will. I wanted to mention that because it was mentioned by one of our leaders--Senator McConnell--and I know Senator Reid worked so closely with him and his staff, and they helped us through a very difficult situation which would have, if not resolved on a bipartisan basis, created some real problems for the ongoing operations of this body.

So I thank our leaders. I thank Senator Reid, of course, who is such a dear friend, and I thank him for not just mentioning my beloved wife Barbara but also my brother Sandy.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.