2016-12-29 / Columns

Michigan Lawmakers Tout National Security

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

As key Great Lake states members of Congress, it is no surprise that some from Michigan, including Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, have long been champions on environmental issues like the Soo Locks, water diversions, and Asian carp.

But some also have been, and are today, leaders on national security issues and champions of the armed forces and veterans.

For example, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, before retiring, was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon, weapons development, and other military matters.

In fact, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, during his quest for President, once told me on the Michigan campaign trail that if elected, he might name Democrat Levin Defense Secretary.

Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who two years ago was elected to replace Levin, revealed last week that he has been appointed to next year join the Armed Services Committee. Good choice.

Peters said: “As a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, I am proud to be carrying on Michigan’s strong military tradition by joining the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Michigan helped build the Arsenal of Democracy that defeated tyranny in World War II, beginning a defense legacy that stretches into present day as Michigan airman, soldiers, and Marines are supporting the fight against ISIS.”

Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law a bipartisan measure introduced by Peters to help those who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military owing to “negative behavior resulting from mental traumas.”

Peters said, “This legislation will give our brave men and women who are suffering from the invisible wounds of war an opportunity to access the benefits they’ve earned through their service.”

Also recent Michigan congressional leaders on national security issues were former Republican Representatives Mike Rogers of Livingston County and Peter Hoekstra of Holland. Each chaired the House Intelligence Committee, and were frequent figures on these issues in the national media.

Senators Stabenow and Peters have been supporters of programs to aid veterans, as has retiring 1st District U.S. Representative Dan Benishek (R-Iron River).

Look for Benishek’s just-elected successor, Republican Jack Bergman of Watersmeet, a retired Marine lieutenant general, to help enhance the role of Michigan on national security issues on Capitol Hill.

While my focus today is on security issues, I note that Stabenow, who has been cited here for being ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently was named chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. It enhances her leadership role among Senate Democrats.

Flint’s Impact on Next Governor’s Race

As underscored last week by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s charges against four more people, including two emergency managers appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, there is likely to be many a ripple from the Flint drinking water crisis on the 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Term-limited Snyder won’t be running, but fellow Republican Schuette, a former state legislator and congressman, is expected to be a leading contender. Snyder loyalist, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, will likely be in the GOP mix.

Schuette has taken legal action against 13 city and state officials. The fact that he has not ruled out legal action against Snyder was raised in year-end interviews Snyder had with Detroit’s two daily newspapers.

“I have no reason to be concerned,” he told the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit News said, “He seemed incredulous at the idea he could be next.” He said, “I don’t know for what, but again, this is what we need to wait and see what happens during the judicial process.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Frame, for 22 years was 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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