BY GEORGE WEEKS
---- — As Washington deals with cascading scandals, Michigan lawmakers are among leaders seeking bipartisan solutions.
Most notable last week was leadership of 4th District Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and 12th District Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, its minority ranking member.
In opening a four-hour hearing on the targeting of conservative political groups by the Internal Revenue Service, 12-term Camp sternly said: “…this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups—and political intimidation—in this Administration. It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.”
Not surprisingly, 16-term Democrat Levin was not as harsh on the Obama administration as Camp—and cautioned against “an effort to score political points”—but Levin said: “What is now completely clear is that the management and oversight of the agency’s handling of tax exemption applications have completely failed the American people. …All of us are angry on behalf of the nation.“
With a slam of the gavel Friday, Camp said that while the hearing was over, “I promise the American people that this investigation has just begun. “ Camp-Levin plan more hearings this week.
Levin, a former state senator who in 1970 and 1974 narrowly lost to Gov. William G. Milliken, is the older brother of Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’ s longest-serving senator who is not seeking reelection but is currently prominent in a number of current bipartisan corrective efforts on Capitol Hill.
Carl Levin is longtime chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and works cooperatively with ranking Republican John McCain of Arizona on a number of current military issues, including those in Libya. They also have the chairman-ranking relationship on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which also is looking into the IRS issue and plans hearings in June.
They said in a joint statement: “We will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure the integrity of our political process and of enforcement efforts.”
(As an indication of the close ties between Levin and McCain, while travelling with him in his 2000 bid for the GOP presidential nomination, McCain told me that if elected, he would consider picking Levin as his Secretary of Defense.)
Another escalating issue Carl Levin dealt with last week was the problem of sexual assault in the U.S. military. He responded after the Army announced that a noncommissioned officer assigned to III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas, who was assigned as an Equal Opportunity Advisor/Assault Response and Prevention program coordinator in his battalion, is under investigation for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates. Levin said:
“Tragically, the depth of the sexual assault problem in our military was already overwhelmingly clear before this latest highly disturbing report. The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering a number of measures, including changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to address sexual assault and related issues in the military, and will act on them during our consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act next month.”
First District Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, who has a daughter in the Marine Corps, also spoke out on the issue.
All in all, considering the IRS and sexual assault issues as well as his administration’s seizure of Associated Press phone records and the ongoing controversy about deaths of U.S. diplomats in Libya, there was much media talk about it being a bad week for President Obama. Noting this, Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn, appropriately said at the IRS hearing: “It was a bad week for America.”
George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the 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.