By Clarissa Sansone
Senator Carl Levin was blunt in his appraisal of the current Congress during a recent visit to Michigan Law.
"For the most part, bipartisanship is not well," he said. "Even a body like the Senate, where you have to work together…is not functioning well."
Levin, a Detroit native and graduate of Harvard Law, appeared at a February 23 event sponsored by the Law School's Frank Murphy Society.
The senator pointed to two reasons for a less-than-productive Congress. First, the role of the media, "particularly now that it's so fractured" in polarizing issues.
"Diffusion and confusion in the media is a big part of our problem," Levin said, referring to the proliferation of online news outlets and blogs.
The other part of the problem is the "issue of the filibuster, which has been abused…in the Senate," he said. Because senators can filibuster "on the motion to proceed to debate the bill," Levin said, "we can't get to the bill…It's the threat that works, not the filibuster."
Of the members of Congress, Levin said, "We’re all unpopular." He went on to say, however, that in particular there are "a handful of senators who abuse" the rules.
When asked how to "do away with the partisan atmosphere in Washington," Levin responded, "I don't have an easy answer. The issues themselves may force us to be bipartisan."
Levin, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, also mentioned the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contained detention provisions that were less than favorably received.
"It's no fun being at the other end of a New York Times editorial," he said. "I took a position on that which was not particularly popular with the liberal communities," Levin said, adding, "The New York Times blasted the provisions. The Washington Post blasted the provisions. The ACLU blasted the provisions."
Nevertheless, Levin stood by the NDAA, referring students to his website for a complete explanation of his position, because "it's too long a subject to go into in a minute. It's too important."
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