About Sandy

Background

Representative Sander “Sandy” Levin was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan the son of Saul and Bess Levin with his brother Carl and his sister Hannah Gladstone. He attended Central High School; earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Chicago, his Masters Degree in international relations from Columbia University, and a law degree from Harvard University.

He was a student activist, serving as the Class President at Central High School and the President of student government at the University of Chicago.  During his college years, he was active in Students for Democratic Action and in 1952 was elected the National Chairman of this organization.  His activism led to involvement in the civil right movement and voting registration drives in the south where he first met and worked with John Lewis.  He also organized exchanges where students from the south would spend summers in Detroit working in the auto industry.

He and Vicki Schlafer were married in 1957 and raised their four children (Andy, Jenny, Madeleine and Matt) in Berkley, Michigan.  He and his late wife were married for more than 50 years.  Rep. Levin has ten grandchildren. In 2012, he married Dr. Pamela Cole, a Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University. 

Public Service

Rep. Levin was elected to the State Senate in 1965.  He served as Senate Minority Leader in 1969-1970. In the State Senate he was involved in overhauling the state’s worker compensation and unemployment insurance systems and wrote the Public Employee Relations Act, negotiating the final legislation with then Governor George Romney who signed it into law.  He also chaired the Select Committee on Special Education that led to major improvements in the state’s special education system.  He competed for the Governor’s office with Governor Bill Milliken in 1970 and 1974 and the two remain friends to this day. He was elected to Congress in 1982.  His brother Carl represented Michigan in the United States Senate from 1979-2015 making them the longest service elected sibling team in Congressional history.

Rep. Levin has represented three different congressional districts and over 30 communities in Southeast Michigan.  The 17th District from 1983-1992 ran from Inkster through Royal Oak and included a portion of Detroit.  The 12th District from 1993-2002 ran from Southfield through Warren and was 50% in Oakland County and 50% in Macomb County.  The 12th District from 2003-2012 shifted to include more of Macomb County and the current 9th District runs from Bloomfield Township through St. Clair Shores. 

In Congress, Rep. Levin first served on House Banking Committee and joined the Ways and Means committee in 1987.  He has served as the Chair or Ranking Member on the Subcommittees on Human Resources, Social Security, Health Care and Trade.  He served as the Chair of the full Ways and Means Committee for six months in 2010 and the Ranking Member from 2011-2016.

James Gannon, the former Detroit News bureau chief, once wrote:  “Sandy Levin: The guy I'd want for my Congressman and neighbor: hard-working, thoughtful, effective and honest."

Legislative Snapshot

Health Care

Rep. Levin was Chair of the Ways and Means Committee during consideration and passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  He fought for the inclusion of innovative measures to reform our payment system and supported a public option to insert competition in the market place.  He remains a strong defender of the ACA, which has provided health coverage to nearly one million people in Michigan, while dropping the State’s uninsured rate by more than half.

In the early 1990s with Senator John Danforth he sponsored the Patient Self-Determination Act which required for the first time that every health care facility that participates in Medicare or Medicaid to inform adult patients about advance directives.

Rep. Levin was the original author of Johanna’s Law, which established a nationwide campaign to educate the public and health care providers about gynecological cancers.

A leader in efforts to improve the translation of cutting edge medical research into bedside care, Rep. Levin is the author of the Healthcare Improvements for Generating High Performance Act, or HIGH Performance Act, which aims to facilitate dissemination of best practices in medicine more quickly and effectively.

Rep. Levin is a longtime supporter of medical research funding through the National Institutes of Health and other research facilities.  His late wife worked on infant mental health and development at NIH for over 30 years.

Rep. Levin has also been active in mental health issues at the local, state and federal levels.  He worked on mental health issues in the state legislature, served on Governor Granholm’s Mental Health Commission and has continued to advocate for mental health parity and funding in the Congress.

Trade

Rep. Levin has been a leader on trade issues throughout his entire career in Congress.  He has championed the need to assure that expanded trade is actively shaped to work fairly two ways between countries and to spread its benefit for workers, as well as businesses, in the global marketplace. 

In the 1980s he worked to spotlight the unfair trading practices of Japan through hearings, trips to Japan and legislation.  He fought for strong U.S. trade remedy laws that would defend against the unfair dumping of steel and other products in the U.S. market

He was involved in Uruguay Round negotiations, including playing a major role in maintaining strong U.S. trade remedy laws as the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established.

He was strongly opposed to NAFTA arguing at the time that the complete lack of enforceable labor and environmental standards would lock in unfair competition between countries and cost U.S. jobs.

During the Clinton Administration he worked to create new trade policies in the Cambodia Textiles Agreement and the Jordan Free Trade Agreement to include better provisions on worker rights.

He authored, with former Rep. Doug Bereuter, provisions to strengthen the legislation granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations as they entered the WTO.  These provisions provided for an annual review of China’s adherence to their WTO obligations, the Section 421 safeguard to address market surges, and established the Congressional-Executive Commission on China to monitor the human rights and the development of the rule of law.  He voiced his complete dismay on how the Bush Administration implemented these provisions because they completely let China off the hook in the annual reviews and failed to use Section 421 in all cases brought before them.

Rep. Levin has been a strong advocate for addressing currency manipulation.  He introduced legislation which passed the House in 2010 to use trade remedy laws to address a trading partner’s currency manipulation.  He advocated, including by filing Section 301 petition, for a case to be brought in the WTO on China’s currency manipulation.  And, he detailed a provision on currency manipulation that should have been included in Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-pacific Partnership negotiations

He was a key sponsor of legislation to grant trade preferences to the Caribbean Basin and Sub-Saharan African region.  He opposed the Central America Free Trade Agreement which failed to include adequate labor and environmental standards. 

Rep. Levin, and Rep. Charles Rangel, brought about the inclusion of fully enforceable labor and environmental standards, including internationally-recognized core labor standards in the Peru FTA.  Mr. Levin oversaw changes in Peru labor law to bring them into compliance with these provisions before Congress considered the FTA. Reps. Levin and Rangel also brought about changes to better balance health needs to with strong intellectual property protections, ensured investment provisions of FTAs do not give foreign investors greater rights than U.S. investors have under U.S. law, clarified that labor standards can be considered in awarding government procurement contracts, and clarified provisions related to actions taken to promote U.S. national security.  These provisions became known as “May 10th” for the day in 2006 they were announced  and have been included in every subsequent trade agreement.

He has authored, with Rep. Charles Rangel, legislation to improve trade enforcement and dramatically expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.  TAA expansion was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

He put forwarded a comprehensive report, “A Path Forward to an Effective Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement” that detailed all of the changes needed for this agreement to earn bi-partisan support.  He opposed the TPP as negotiated.

He is currently working on the re-negotiation of NAFTA emphasizing the need to ensure a dramatic reform of the Mexican labor regime which suppresses the rights of workers, keeps wages low and has resulted in major job loss in the U.S.

Social Security

Rep. Levin served as Ranking Member of the Social Security Subcommittee in 2006 where he played a lead role in the successful battle in the House to defeat President Bush’s campaign to privatize Social Security.  Rep. Levin led efforts to organize a nation-wide education and public awareness effort to demonstrate support for the Social Security program.

Manufacturing and the Economy

Rep. Levin is a longstanding and outspoken champion of American Manufacturing and job creation. 

In 2008 and 2009, Rep. Levin, along with his brother, Senator Carl Levin and the entire Michigan Congressional Delegation, led the successful effort in Congress to persuade the Bush and Obama Administrations to provide emergency assistance to the domestic automobile industry, preventing the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler and restoring the U.S. automobile industry to long-term health.

He has also been at the forefront of efforts to support the development and deployment of electric vehicles.  In 2008, he was instrumental to the enactment of the $7,500 tax credit for plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles.  In 2009, he helped lead a successful effort to include $2 billion to support U.S. development of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems.  Rep. Levin has also introduced legislation to extend and expand the tax credits for medium and heavy duty hybrid vehicles and to extend and increase the tax credit for electric vehicle refueling property.

In the wake of the financial crisis, Rep. Levin introduced the Manufacturing Modernization and Diversification Act to help manufacturers access the credit they need to expand, diversify and hire new workers. Based on a successful credit support model developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the legislation provided resources to states to partner with financial institutions to directly address the cash flow and collateral problems that were preventing too many manufacturers from accessing credit.  This legislation was incorporated by the Obama Administration into the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which was enacted as part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.  Through the end of 2015, State SSBCI programs supported nearly $8.4 billion in small business loans and investments.

Rep. Levin has introduced legislation to eliminate capital gains tax on investments in qualified small business stock in order to provide a strong incentive for equity investments in qualified small businesses.  This provision was made permanent in 2015

Rep. Levin is a longtime champion of the R&D tax credit to ensure that all companies have a strong incentive to invest in R&D here in the US.  The R&D credit, which is heavily used by manufacturers, was made permanent in 2015. 

Rep. Levin has introduced legislation to extend and improve the Super-Efficient Appliance Tax Credit, which gives appliance manufacturers an incentive to exceed regulatory efficiency standards and to manufacture appliances in the United States.  These improvements became law as part of a larger bill in 2008.

Locally, Rep. Levin played a leading role in the creation of the Macomb-OU Business incubator by securing an initial federal grant for its establishment. 

A Fairer Tax Code

Rep. Levin has worked on a number of specific tax issues since the bipartisan 1986 tax reform bill, which he strongly supported.  He is the original author of legislation to treat the “carried interest” compensation received by investment fund managers as ordinary income rather than capital gains.  In exchange for providing the service of managing their investors’ assets, fund managers often they receive a portion of the fund’s profits, or carried interest, usually 20 percent. Rep. Levin’s legislation would ensure that these investment professionals pay the same tax rates as other Americans on their compensation for services.  Rep. Levin’s carried interest bill has passed the House of Representatives as part of broader legislation on four occasions between 2007 and 2010, but it has not yet passed the Senate.

He is the author of legislation to close the “inversion” loophole that allows companies to merge with a much smaller entity overseas and acquire a foreign address to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  The Obama Administration took similar action through executive measures.

Rep. Levin has also introduced legislation to eliminate the tax liability on student loan forgiveness under the Income-Based Repayment program.

Most recently, Rep. Levin has highlighted the importance of ensuring that any broad-based tax reform is both fiscally-responsible and focused on helping the middle class and those struggling to get into it, rather than the very wealthy.

Human Resources

As the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee during the 1990s, Rep. Levin worked with the Clinton Administration to help reshape the nation’s welfare laws.  Thereafter, Rep. Levin worked actively across party lines to make a series of benefit restorations to legal immigrants affected by welfare reform legislation passed in 1996.  In 1997, he was instrumental in restoring SSI and Medicaid benefits to legal immigrant seniors and people with disabilities.  In 1998, he helped usher through legislation that made fundamental changes to the country’s child support system - making it simpler for children to receive the benefits that they need.  In 1999, the Congressman, working with former Rep. Charlie Stenholm, restored food stamp benefits for low income legal immigrant families, seniors and children.    

Rep. Levin was the author of the "Food Stamp Outreach and Research for Kids Act,” popularly known as "FORK,” which provides grants to community organizations to help find people who need food assistance and enroll them in the Food Stamps program.

Rep. Levin has introduced legislation to extend and improve the enhanced deduction for donations of food inventory. This provision is a vital incentive to encourage food manufacturers to donate their excess inventory to food banks rather than discard it.  The provision, with Rep. Levin’s improvements, was made permanent in 2015.

Rep. Levin is also a long-time supporter of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which was initially created in Detroit by Focus HOPE.  For more than ten years, he has led the effort among his colleagues to secure funding for this vital program that provides supplemental food assistance to low-income seniors. 

Unemployment Insurance

In response to the “Great Recession,” Rep. Levin fought to create, expand and continue federally-funded extended unemployment benefits for workers who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  The resulting Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, in combination with other temporary provisions, provided the most robust package of assistance for dislocated workers ever granted by the federal government.  From July 2008 through the end of 2013, these programs provided over $270 billion to unemployed workers nationwide, including over $11 billion to people searching for work in Michigan.  A number of economists credit these programs for helping reduce the severity and duration of the recession, with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office finding that extended unemployment benefits provide one of the most cost effective ways to stimulate the economy.  The EUC program was modified or extended 11 times over a five-year period, with Rep. Levin actively involved at every step.  He also fought for a similar program, Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC), during the prior recession in 2001-2004. 

Rep. Levin led the fight to uncover and demand a response to a scandal with Michigan’s unemployment insurance system which wrongly accused tens of thousands of innocent Michiganders with fraud between 2013 and 2015.  Rep. Levin called on the State to investigate the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) system and make whole all who were hurt – a process that ultimately led to nearly $21 million in wrongful penalties being restored to former UI claimants in Michigan.

Anti-Drug Efforts

Rep. Levin is the co-author (with now Senator Rob Portman) of the Drug Free Communities Support Program, which became law in 1997.  The program supports community anti-drug coalitions that work to reduce youth substance abuse by bringing together multiple community sectors, including youth, parents, schools, law enforcement, businesses, and health care professionals.  There are now many hundreds of Drug Free Community anti-drug coalitions operating across the country.  Research has clearly shown that communities with a DFC supported anti-drug coalition are successful in reducing youth substance abuse. 

Foreign Affairs

Rep. Levin served as an Assistant Administrator at the Agency for International Development during the Carter Administration and he remained active on international development and foreign affairs issues in Congress.

Building on his experience at AID, Rep. Levin was an active supporter of international family planning programs and vocal opponent of the “global gag rule” language which restricts international community organizations that receive any U.S. funds from using their own separate money from providing any information on safe, legal abortion services.

Rep. Levin was an original founder of the bi-partisan U.S. House Ukraine Caucus in 1997 and has served as a co-chair during every Congress.  He supported granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Ukraine, and authored legislation to establish the Holodomor Famine Memorial in Washington, D.C. which was opened near Union Station in 2015.

After intensive study and consultation, Rep. Levin was instrumental in supporting the Iran Nuclear Agreement, reached in 2015 between the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  As he stated on this important and difficult issue, “In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult broadly and then to say what you believe.” 

Energy and Environment

Rep. Levin, along with Reps. Louise Slaughter (NY), David Joyce (OH) and former Rep. John Dingell (MI), led a bipartisan effort in the House to support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  Since 2010, Congress has provided more than $2.2 billion for restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes Basin. Over 3,455 grants for restoration projects have been awarded – 760 of those are in Michigan.

Rep. Levin is a longtime advocate for restoration of Lake St. Clair and its watershed.  Numerous projects to restore Lake St. Clair have been funded through GLRI, including $20 million to restore the Clinton River.  Over the years, Rep. Levin has also provided key support for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, a federal-state partnership that has provided communities within the Lake St. Clair watershed with hundreds of millions in low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects.  Rep. Levin was the author of a provision in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act to require the Corps of Engineers to develop a Strategic Implementation Plan to restore Lake St. Clair. 

Rep. Levin supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which was approved by the House in 2009, but failed to pass the Senate.  ACES was a comprehensive national effort to curb carbon emissions and build a clean energy economy.  He has also supported other successful efforts to spur renewable energy and energy efficiency, including long-term extension of federal tax incentives for producing electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources.  Rep. Levin also introduced legislation in the 110th Congress, the Super-Efficient Appliances Incentives and Market Transformation Act, to provide tax credits for the production of super-efficient dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and dehumidifies.  This legislation was enacted in 2008.

At Home

In addition to the local impact of all of the above policies, Mr. Levin has been rooted in his southeast Michigan congressional districts for decades.  As staple of his career in the 17th and 12th District for were town hall meetings where he held hundreds.  His intense interest to connect with people evolved into neighborhood meetings, telephone town halls, and “Congress on your Corner” like sessions before they were even popular outside grocery stores, farmers markets and in libraries, credit unions, coffee shops and local businesses.

A long-time supporter of community colleges he helped to establish branches of Oakland Community College in the south end as a state senator and worked with Macomb Community College on school-to-work programs and grant opportunities to train people in defense and other industries.  He spearheaded an effort to draw attention to the lack of higher education opportunities in Macomb County resulting in a Kellogg Foundation research project and a state-wide strategy under the Granholm Administration.

He was an active participant of the transition of the former tank plant in Warren to private use and worked with his brother, Senator Carl Levin, to strengthen the mission at TACOM and TARDEC.  He has supported numerous initiatives to strengthen the private defense industry in Macomb and Michigan.

Most importantly, his office is known for excellent constituent service by helping thousands of individuals to resolve problems with the federal government and assisting local communities in local projects of importance to them.