Reps. Rogers, Levin find (a few) areas of agreement in Economic Club appearance

Nov 5, 2013

There wasn’t a whole lot of agreement on issues of the day between U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, a Brighton Republican, and Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, during a rare joint appearance before the Detroit Economic Club.

But there was at least consensus that the shutdown of the federal government was a poor strategy to try and reach a deal on the national budget and debt ceiling.

“I just didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Rogers said.

Levin called the shutdown “a serious mistake.”

It has been a tumultuous summer and fall for Congress, as Republicans tried to put the brakes on the Affordable Care Act and the federal government partially shut down for 16 days in October when lawmakers failed to approve a budget.

There was little, if any, room for compromise in the sharply divided U.S. Capitol.

But on Monday, a rare display of bipartisanship emerged when the two congressmen at least appeared on the same stage to talk to a crowd of 200 people about all things Washington.

“It doesn’t happen often enough,” Levin said, decrying the lack of relationships between lawmakers in Washington. “There aren’t enough real discussions about issues anymore.”

Rogers noted that, especially among the newer members of Congress: “It’s a lost art of understanding that you have to negotiate where you want to go. We have to get back to the notion that you can’t get everything you want. And that you’re not sacrificing your principles by negotiating.”

They disagreed about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Levin said it will provide a much-needed safety net for the millions of uninsured people in the U.S. Rogers predicted, however, that the law will result in more cancellations of individual policies and businesses abandoning health care for employees because it’s too expensive.

They were a bit closer on surveillance being done by the National Security Agency. Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the snooping is necessary to protect the U.S. Levin said people have legitimate concerns about the amount of surveillance being done.

And as for Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing, Rogers said it was a necessary step to ensure the success of the city.

“We can’t have the state’s biggest city looking like Beirut on a bad day on ‘60 Minutes,’ ” he said referring to the latest piece on Detroit on the CBS news show.

More emphasis needs to be placed on things like improving education and mass transit in the city, Levin said. “There has to be some reason applied here as to how to save Detroit,” he said.

Across-the-aisle ventures are also becoming less frequent in the Michigan delegation to work on issues of common concern, both men acknowledged. But they gave different reasons why.

Levin said it has more to do with the widening divide between the two parties, especially with the emergence of the tea party.

“The delegation doesn’t meet like it used to and that’s a reflection of the increased partisanship,” he said, noting the last time the delegation worked together on anything of substance was the auto four years ago.

Rogers said it’s more of an issue of time management. Michigan has four Republican members who head key committees: U.S. Reps. Dave Camp of Midland, Ways and Means; Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Energy and Technology; Rogers on Intelligence, and Candice Miller of Harrison Township, House Administration.

“It’s hard to get those people with those responsibilities into the same room,” he said. “Our schedules are so darned demanding.”

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