The Big 3, and their role in making Michigan irrelevant

The Washington Post has a really good, comprehensive piece today on the waning influence of Michigan and the automotive industry in Washington. It’s all stuff that we’ve discussed here before, but, when you read it all together in one place, the impression you’re left with is both clear and overwhelming… The Big 3 were never ever acting in good faith with the federal government concerning emissions and fuel efficiency… And we all know how the story ends.

…Dingell stepped in on the industry’s behalf and persuaded lawmakers to weaken the bill. The final version called for raising the average fuel economy from 27 to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The California law requires automobiles to get 43.7 mpg by 2016.

But Dingell’s action cost him. To get his way, he crossed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and although Pelosi did not later take a public position on the committee leadership battle between Dingell and Waxman, she also did not step in to defend the longtime chairman….

California now controls our destiny, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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  1. kristin
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    I got an invite to the Dingell luncheon at state convention yesterday. I wonder what they’re going to say about the year?

  2. Posted February 5, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    He’ll talk about healthcare.

  3. Meta
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Get this – Pelosi is hosting a reception honoring Dingell, as he becomes the longest serving member of the House. Awkward.,0,4105876.story

  4. Posted February 5, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Like striking up a conversation alone with a blog aquaintance at a trough urinal awkward?

  5. Meta
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Dingell’s new newsletter. It should give you some idea what he’ll talk about.

    During the first month of the 111th Congress, my colleagues in Congress and I have been hard at work to pass legislation to bring about real change and help everyday Americans weather the economic crisis.

    We are pleased to have a new partner, President Barack Obama, in the quest to move our country forward together. His inauguration was a historical moment, and his inaugural address underscored a “new era of responsibility.”

    Guaranteeing Equal Pay
    The first order of business in the House was passing bipartisan equal pay legislation. On average, women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. On January 9, 2009, the House passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which clarifies that every paycheck or other compensation resulting, in whole or in part, from an earlier discriminatory pay decision constitutes a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

    The Act was inspired by Lilly Ledbetter, who worked for nearly two decades at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber facility in Alabama. She sued the company after learning that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at the plant, despite having more experience than several of her male counterparts. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex. However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination.

    The House also passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the remedies available to put sex-based pay discrimination on par with race-based pay discrimination. Additionally, I, along with my colleague Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), reintroduced a bill to establish a Center for the Study of Women and Workplace Policy. The Center would compile and analyze data on the differences between the earning of men and women and to identify factors which affect those differences. The Center’s results would be published in the form of a “Best Practices Guide” for businesses containing guidelines to promote workplace equity, retaining women in the workplace and promoting a family friendly workplace. As a husband, father, and grandfather, I believe we must make sure our daughters receive the same opportunities as our sons. You can rest assured that as we move forward in the 111th Congress that I will be actively working with my colleagues to ensure equal pay.

    Reforming health care
    I understand the importance of reforms of the health care and health insurance industries. Throughout my years as a Member of Congress, I have fought to ensure that all Americans, regardless of age, sex, gender, or any other factor, have access to quality, affordable, comprehensive health care and insurance. My father proposed the first national health care plan when he was a Member of the House of Representatives. At the start of each Congress that I have served, I have introduced legislation (H.R. 15) based on his original proposal to assure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable care. I again introduced this bill at the start of the 111th Session of Congress.

    Insuring our Children
    With rising unemployment, mounting food and gas prices, and a faltering global economy, state-funded health insurance for children has become more critical than ever as increasing numbers of American parents are having difficulty finding affordable health insurance for their children. Michigan has been hit especially hard by the financial crisis, which is why I, along with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and Subcommittee of Health Chairman Frank Pallone introduced H.R. 2, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization. H.R. 2 will ensure our children have access to the best health care possible. On January 14, the House passed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization language, preserving coverage for 7 million children and extending coverage to an additional 4 million.

    Protecting our food supply
    Recently, eight people were killed and over 500 people across the country fell ill with salmonella after eating contaminated peanut butter. As if that were not enough, federal officials found that the peanut plant that produced the peanut butter knowingly shipped out contaminated goods 12 times in the past two years. The Peanut Corporation of America found salmonella in internal tests between 2007 and 2008, but sold their products anyway.

    People have reason to be angry about the quality of our nation’s food supply. As evident by the recent salmonella case, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fundamentally unable to ensure the safety of our food products, and we’ve paid a terrible price for it. That is why I introduced the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009. This legislation is a critical step toward equipping the FDA with the authorities and funding it needs to regulate what is now a global marketplace for food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics.

    The Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act would guarantee FDA the funding needed to significantly increase inspections of food facilities and improve outdated information systems. The legislation requires food producers to have preventive food safety plans in place and subjects the plans to FDA inspection, requires food imports to meet all US standards, closes the loopholes in FDA’s ability to trace the source of contaminated products, and imposes stiff penalties on companies that violate safety standards.

    Additionally, this bill requires parity between foreign and domestic drug and device facility inspections, increases the number of pre-approval drug inspections, prohibits the entry of drugs into the United States lacking documentation of safety, requires manufacturers to ensure the safety of their supply chain, and grants FDA authority to mandate recalls of unsafe drugs. The bill also creates a dedicated foreign inspectorate to increase FDA’s ability to monitor foreign facilities producing food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics.

    Investing in America
    Congress is moving on President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which will create or maintain 4 million American jobs. It will transform our economy with science and technology to secure America’s competitiveness in the global economy; increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of taxpayer dollars; put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow by increasing renewable energy production; and create jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing public buildings, and cleaning our environment. The plan also includes funding to extend unemployment benefits, provide relief to strapped states, and bring education into the 21st century. Doing so will enable students of all ages to learn in technologically-wired classrooms, labs, and libraries. Rising health care costs will also be addressed, as the plan will update and computerize our health care system to cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help reduce health care costs by billions of dollars each year.

    Protecting American Jobs
    I have also joined some of my colleagues in calling for a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus, to make sure the jobs created are American jobs. It is clear that our nation faces enormous challenges. In December, United States factory activity fell to a 28-year low. The economy shed more than 2.4 million jobs in 2008, making it the worst year of job losses since World War II. The unemployment rate, already at a disturbingly high 7.2%, could reach double digits by the end of this year. In fact, Michigan is already experiencing an unemployment rate of over 10 percent. If the intent of the stimulus bill is to put Americans back to work, the money must be spent here at home. American taxpayer dollars should go to American workers.

    Furthermore, I also asked that Democratic and Republican Leadership include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) in the stimulus. TAA equips those who have lost their jobs with new skills to make them more competitive in a changing workforce. We are calling for the stimulus expand coverage to include service workers, increase benefits, expand training and educational initiatives, make the wage insurance program permanent, improve health care benefits, and increase the program’s funding. At a time when manufacturing across the country, especially in Michigan, is consistently hardest hit by unemployment, an expansion of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program must be an integral component of the stimulus.

    Supporting Homeowners
    The root of the current recession lies in the collapse of the housing market. Unfortunately, little is being done to help homeowners in this time of crisis. With this in mind, I signed on as an original cosponsor to H.R. 230, the “Housing Opportunity and Mortgage Equity Act.” H.R. 230 is a home purchase and refinance program, which will allow Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to purchase certain types of mortgages from lenders (for example, mortgages with interest rates above four percent and a fixed term of at least 30 years).

    In turn, lenders will be able to take troubled loans off their books and offer refinancing opportunities and new mortgages to existing homeowners. This legislation mirrors the efforts of the New Deal-era Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, which helped keep millions of Americans in their homes during the Great Depression, and eventually returned a profit to the federal government. In addition to helping current homeowners, this legislation will reduce the overhang of housing stock and encourage more people to enter the housing market, thus helping to stimulate the economy.

    Ensuring Accountability in the Troubled Asset Relief Program
    Since debate on the use of Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds began late last year, I have consistently maintained that recipients of those funds all be subject to uniform oversight requirements. I voted in support of H.R. 384, the TARP Reform and Accountability Act of 2009, because it requires public reporting requirements for entities that have received or will receive TARP funds in the future. H.R. 384, which passed the House of Representatives on January 22, 2009, includes provisions to help Michigan’s ailing homeowners by requiring that a specific portion of the next installment of TARP funds be dedicated to mitigate foreclosures on residential mortgages within seven days of the bill’s enactment. The bill also includes measures to allow the Department of the Treasury to provide support to the financing arms of automakers, which will in turn allow consumers and businesses access to previously unavailable lines of credit for the purchase of new vehicles. Helping homeowners and aiding automakers are both key components to our Nation’s successful recovery from recession, and I hope that the Senate will take up and pass Rep. Frank’s bill as expeditiously as possible.

    Addressing the Plight of Iraqi Refugees
    Since the war in Iraq began, more than 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced within Iraq and in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon. The situation in the region has continued to deteriorate with Iraqis citizens finding they are living among resentful host populations. As the day-to-day needs of Iraqis continue to increase and their host countries’ resources diminish, the security situation could have broad regional implications.

    I, along with my colleague Alcee Hastings (D-FL), reintroduced the Iraqi Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Security Act. The legislation addresses this crisis and the potential security break-down resulting from the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq, and also facilitates the resettlement of Iraqis at risk. This bill is a necessary and important step toward helping the millions of Iraqis forced from their homes and away from their families inside Iraq as well as into neighboring countries. As violence in Iraq diminishes and as the Obama administration enters office, now is the moment to implement new policies that begin to address the staggering reality of the plight of Iraqis since the war began.

    You can learn more about the Iraqi refugee crisis here.

    Protecting our Heritage
    With the strong support from our two Michigan Senators, the River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe, Michigan, moves closer to becoming the “River Raisin National Battlefield Park.” The site in Monroe was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812. Out of nearly 1,000 American troops that participated in the engagement, only 33 escaped death or capture. This bloody event, arguably the largest land engagement of the war, gave birth to the emotional rallying cry “Remember the Raisin,” which spurred the American forces on to victory at the Battle of the Thames nine months later.

    During the 110th and 111th Congress, I introduced in the House, and Senator Levin introduced in the Senate, the River Raisin National Battlefield Act, which would designate the River Raisin Battlefield as a unit of the National Park System. Last Congress, both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction held hearings on the bill where Monroe Mayor Mark Worrell and Monroe County Historical Society President William H. Braunlich testified. The hearings were a great success and with the assistance of our two Michigan Senators, our legislation was included in the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which passed the Senate on January 15. The House will soon take up this legislation and if the bill passes, as expected, the Battlefield will be closer than ever to becoming a national park.

    The good citizens on Monroe – who have worked tirelessly to see this project become a success – are willing to donate the land to the Federal Government for free. I am grateful for their work to restore the Battlefield and their understanding of the importance of preserving this land in perpetuity.

    I would very much appreciate the benefit of your thoughts. Please click here to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you, and will continue to work as your representative to move our country forward.

    With every good wish,

    Representative John D. Dingell

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