Carl Levin

Longest Serving US Senators In American History, Six Terms And More!

25 United States Senators have served six terms or close to 36 years out of 1, 963 individuals who have served in the upper body of Congress.

17 0f these 25 served as Democrats, with 8 serving as Republicans.

11 come from the South, with 9 being Democrats, and only 2 being Republicans.

Longevity does not, necessarily, mean greatness in history, as many of the 25 are far from standouts in their years in the US Senate.

The most memorable in history would include Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Richard Lugar and Claiborne Pell.

Others that would stand out for their long range influence would include Robert Byrd, Strom Thurmond, John Stennis, Richard Russell, Russell Long, and James Eastland, but all are seen as primarily negative forces holding back progress on civil rights.

Others with more positive significance but not seen as “stars” would include Daniel Inouye, Carl Hayden, Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, and Warren Magnuson.

Others that are seen as noteworthy but not likely to be remembered much in the long run of  history would include Ted Stevens, Ernest Hollings, Thad Cochran, and Pete Domenici.

The remaining five are all forgettable Senators, dealing with their states’ constituent needs, but having little impact beyond that including Francis Warren, Kenneth McKellar, Milton Young, Ellison Smith, and Allen Ellender.

Also, three from the list of 25 are from Mississippi (Stennis, Eastland, Cochran); three from South Carolina (Thurmond, Hollings, Smith); and two from Louisiana (Long, Ellender).

Additionally, states with small populations and only one Congressman, have Senators on the list, including Vermont (Leahy); Alaska (Stevens); Wyoming (Warren); Delaware (Biden); and North Dakota (Young).

Only two “larger” populated states have a Senator on the list, including Massachusetts (Kennedy) and Michigan (Levin)

Finally, only 8 Senators have served 40 or more years, in order as follows: Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, Strom Thurmond, Ted Kennedy, Carl Hayden, John Stennis, Patrick Leahy (still serving), and Ted Stevens, with only Byrd serving more than 50 years!

Three Outstanding U.S. Senators Retiring: A Loss To The Institution

As the 113th Congress nears its end, setting a record as the worst, most unproductive Congress in modern history, it is time to reflect on the loss of three outstanding US Senators who are retiring, after decades of exceptional service.

Those three Senators are:

Tom Harkin of Iowa
Carl Levin of Michigan
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

Harkin and Rockefeller served 30 years in the Senate, while Levin served 36 years.

All were principled men who stood up for the middle class and promoted progressive values and principles in their years in the Senate.

All three were men of conscience who worked against right wing attacks on the Democratic Party and its constituents, and added dignity to the Senate.

All three will be greatly missed, but will go down in the annals of Senate history, as having been among the greats in its history.

The Democratic Party Winners In The 2014 Midterm Elections!

While the Democrats lost more seats in the House of Representatives, and lost 8-9 seats in the US Senate and majority control as a result, there WERE Democratic triumphs worthy of mention!

Jeanne Shaheen won a second term in the Senate, defeating Scott Brown in the New Hampshire Senate race.

Al Franken won a second term in the Senate in Minnesota.

Jeff Merkley won a second term in the Senate in Oregon.

Dick Durbin won a fourth term in the Senate in Illinois.

Chris Coons won a second term in the Senate in Delaware.

Ed Markey won a first full term in the Senate in Massachusetts, after having a special election victory in 2013 to replace Secretary of State John Kerry.

Cory Booker won a full Senate term in New Jersey.

Tom Udall won a second Senate term in New Mexico.

Jack Reed won a fourth Senate term in Rhode Island.

Mark Warner won a second Senate term in Virginia after a very close race with Ed Gillespie.

Brian Schatz won the remainder of a full term in the Senate from Hawaii.

Gary Peters was a new Senator elected in Michigan, to replace retiring Senator Carl Levin.

In the Governorship elections, Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California won major victories, and also, Democrats kept or gained control of Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont–a total of ten victories. Their biggest win, however, was Tom Wolf, defeating Tom Corbett, making Pennsylvania, the sixth largest state, run by Democrats again!

It is not that Democrats have a total great number of victories, but it is worth mentioning that they are far from giving up on regaining the Senate in 2016, and many Governorships are likely to go to the Democrats as part of a “wave”, helped along by the strong likelihood of a Democratic Presidential nominee winning in 2016, and by a substantial majority in the Electoral College!

US Senate Seniority And Age Declining: Good For America!

The US Senate has become a legislative body made up primarily of old people with long terms of service and seniority, but now the future looks bright, as we are seeing a wave of retirements by 2014.

The following Democratic Senators are retiring in 2014, who have had long years of service, and leadership of Senate committees:

Max Baucus of Montana, 30 years
Carl Levin of Michigan, 30 years
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, 30 years
Tom Harkin of Iowa, 24 years
Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, 24 years
Tim Johnson of South Dakota, 18 years

Lautenberg will be 90 when he leaves office: Levin will be 80; Rockefeller will be 77; Harkin will be 75; Baucus will be 73; and Johnson, who had a stroke a few years ago, will be 68!

Overall, 27 Senators range in age from 69 to 89; 34 Senators range in age from 59-68; 27 Senators range in age from 50-58; and only 12 Senators are in their 40s!

This age factor has made the US Senate an “old folks home”, as most Americans are starting to retire from full time work by the time they reach their early 60s!

There needs to be an age limit of some sort, as the nation needs Senators who are modern in their outlook, and flexible enough to be able to have an open mind on issues affecting the nation.

It will not happen, since it would have to be a constitutional amendment, but a limit of four terms (24 years) should be be adopted, and an age of retirement no later than 75, a full ten years more than nearly all Americans in the work world!

The Disappointing Filibuster “Reform”: Basically More Of The Same!

After so much discussion of changing the filibuster rules of the US Senate—including the idea of a 51 vote majority, instead of 60, being enough to move forward on legislation, and the requirement to the return of the “talking filibuster”—ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has made a deal with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to make only slight, minor changes in the filibuster rules, with senior members of the Senate reluctant to push for major reforms, because both parties realize either could be in the minority in the future, and would want the power of the filibuster to promote their agenda, or prevent actions harmful to their interests.

The reform plans of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, therefore, fall by the wayside, and instead the veterans, including Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, won on the issue of keeping minority rights to bottle up legislation.

This is a massive blow to the Obama Administration, and makes the likelihood of much of his program and agenda to have a real chance to pass into law far less likely.

So the Senate, as great a body as it has been historically, remains the center of gridlock and stalemate, and adds to the low rating that the Congress has in public opinion polls.

This is a very disturbing development for those who were hoping for real change!

The Need For Filibuster Reform In The US Senate

The Senate is in a crisis situation, unable to accomplish much, due to the ridiculous filibuster issue, which has totally derailed action or voting on so many matters in the past few years.

The Republican minority has been able, just by threatening a filibuster, to block approval of judicial and executive nominations, and prevent serious discussion and voting on crucial matters. The filibuster, however, does not presently require that any Senator or Senators take the floor and talk for hours and hours, as Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina did in 1957, when he set a record of 25 hours for a personal filibuster, or having an 83 day group filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before finally cloture was voted, and the filibuster was overcome.

So there have been proposals to modify the present requirement that 60 votes are needed to allow movement forward on any Senate issue.

Some want a simple 51 vote majority, similar to the 218 simple vote majority needed in the House of Representatives, while others want a 55 vote majority needed to move forward.

And others suggest something even less of a controversy: Bills for debate could not be filibustered, and filibusters could not be used to prevent formal negotiations with the House on Senate passed legislation, what is called the formation of a conference committee, which used to be common, and now is very rare.

Also, a Senator would have to be on the floor to mount a filibuster, or else, a vote on the bill would proceed. So the old filibuster rule, best represented by the Thurmond example, would require a commitment by one or a group of Senators to give the effort by personal sacrifices, speaking constantly on the floor of the Senate, to stop the bill from moving forward.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico have proposed these reasonable changes, and Joe Biden, as presiding officer, could move such changes forward, but there are seven Democrats, out of the 55 in the new Senate, who seem to be opposed.

These are Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Max Baucus of Montana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Notice that these Senators are all senior and older, longer serving members, with the shortest amount of service being Pryor, in the Senate since 2003.

This failure to understand how important reform is makes one watching this legislative mess feel very frustrated, and leaves one with the feeling that Senate reform will likely fail, and further undermine respect for our Congress and its ability to get things done!

The Jewish Members Of The 113th Congress

In the 113th Congress, due to meet on January 3, there will be a total of 34 people of Jewish heritage serving over the two years of that Congress.

There will be 12 Senators and 22 House members, with the only Republican being House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The 12 Senators include newly appointed Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, just appointed and sworn in yesterday for a two year term, before Schatz has to run for the remaining two years of the term of former Senator Daniel Inouye.

The other eleven Jewish Senators include:

Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
Michael Bennet of Colorado
Ben Cardin of Maryland
Carl Levin of Michigan
Al Franken of Minnesota
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
Charles Schumer of New York
Ron Wyden of Oregon
Bernie Sanders of Vermont

Among the House members are:

Henry Waxman of California
Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida
Jan Schakowsky of Illinois
Sander Levin of Michigan
Eliot Engel, Steve Israel, Nita Lowey and Jerrold Nadler of New York

Jewish members of the two houses of Congress come from:

California
Connecticut
Colorado
Florida
Illinois
Kentucky
Maryland
Michigan
Minnesota
New Jersey
New York
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Tennessee
Virginia
Vermont

Arlen Specter, A Senate Giant, Leaves Behind A Complicated Legacy As He Dies At Age 82

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who died today at age 82, was, without a doubt, a Senate giant, who leaves behind a complicated legacy.

Specter was a Democrat in Philadelphia, turned a Republican, and then, at the end of his career, a Democrat again!

Specter was a liberal Republican who became a moderate, but fought against the conservative trend in his party.

Specter was one of the most influential Jewish Senators in American history, ranking on the level of New York Senator Jacob Javits, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Senator Barbara Boxer, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and New York Senator Charles Schumer. Only Javits was a Republican, other than Specter.

Specter was a giant figure on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, involved in 14 Supreme Court nomination battles, including the stopping of Robert Bork, and the defense of Clarence Thomas, and the impeachment controversy surrounding President Bill Clinton.

Specter was a prickly, ornery individual, who did not suffer fools very well, whether Senate colleagues or constituents, and became a major critic of the mindless Tea Party Movement in the Republican Party after the election of President Barack Obama.

Specter lost his seat in the Senate after 30 years, when he backed President Obama on health care, and switched back to the Democratic Party, giving them, for a brief period, a 60 member filibuster proof majority in the US Senate.

Specter was seen as a man of principle, but also an opportunist, who gained many enemies all over the political spectrum.

Specter was a key figure in the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, being on the staff of the commission, and promoting the viewpoint of a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, which became the official viewpoint of the Warren Commission, a viewpoint he never backed away from, despite the many conspiracy theories.

Specter may have been a “loner” in many ways, but in the thirty years he was in the US Senate, he gained a lot of respect and stature as one of its giant figures, who could not be ignored, overlooked, or mistreated, as he would always fight back, including his two courageous battles with cancer in his last decade.

Arlen Specter is a person who historians will have to wrestle with to understand American politics and history in the 1980s, 1990s, and the early 21st century! His effect on so many areas and issues will be a goldmine for scholars in the future, trying to decipher the controversies and issues going back even to the 1960s!

May Arlen Specter rest in peace, knowing he had a great impact on his nation that will not be forgotten!

A Clarification On Obama, The Libyan Civil War Intervention, And The War Powers Act

A few days ago, the author wrote in criticism of a group of Republican conservatives who were making an issue of the fact that 60 days has passed since the Libyan intervention, and that a resolution was needed to continue the intervention, under the War Powers Act of 1973.

The author incorrectly stated that no such resolution was required, but made the point that the Congress could, but never had, demanded the withdrawal of troops within a 60-90 day period, and never, realistically, would.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that it is not just a group of extremely conservative Republicans who are making an issue of this matter, but instead a bipartisan group that is pushing for a resolution next week in the Senate to continue support of the intervention.

And it turns out that yesterday, President Obama called for such a resolution to continue support, which is assured, despite criticism of some Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the political spectrum.

The group pushing a resolution includes Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Diane Feinstein of California.

It turns out that Bill Clinton failed to get a resolution within 60 days when he intervened in Kosovo in 1999, with the intervention lasting 78 days, but with specific funding for it approved early on by Congress. In Obama’s case with Libya, no such specific funding has been authorized, and the mission has cost about $750 million already, and has angered forces on the left and the right, including intellectuals and constitutional law professors who contend that the War Powers Act has been further damaged by Obama’s failure to call for action sooner than yesterday.

The author hopes that the resolution will pass, so as to legitimize the intervention, and although the War Powers Act remains considered a “paper tiger” by many observers, it would be best NOT to have it declared totally ineffective, as the issue is not just Obama, but the balance of power between the executive branch and the legislative branch when it comes to war powers!

The Abuse Of The Filibuster By The Senate Minority: Time For Reform!

As the political year ends, the record shows that the use of the filibuster tactic by the Republican minority in the US Senate has reached an all time high.

It used to be that the filibuster was utilized by Southern Democrats opposed to the passage of civil rights legislation.

Now it is used as a weapon to stop ALL action in the Senate, with simply the threat of a filibuster preventing progress on legislation, or presidential nominees for the federal courts and other offices.

The number of motions for cloture has doubled in the past few years, and has nearly quadrupled since the 1970s and 1980s, and was used in the single digits until the 1970s.

It used to be that mounting a filibuster meant a group of Senators taking turns in speaking on the floor for hours and hours, while now just the threat stops action.

Is this proper use of the filibuster, just to say a group will mount a filibuster, and all action is paralyzed as a result?

Of course, the answer is no, so the Democratic majority and Senate President and Vice President Joe Biden will have one chance to change the rules of the Senate, on opening day of the 112th Senate on January 5, 2011.

The move to reform the filibuster is being led by junior Democrats, including Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Mark Warner of Virginia. But senior Democrats, including Tom Harkin of Iowa and Carl Levin of Michigan also back the idea of reforms.

The problem is to realize that the Democrats could be in the minority in the Senate in 2013, and the desire to retain influence if they are the minority, so tinkering with the Senate rules on the filibuster, as well as other tactics, such as the ability of one Senator to use the “hold” tactic on action, must be carefully considered, so as not to reverberate on the Democrats in the future times when, inevitably, they will NOT be the majority!