Sen. Stabenow says Congress Democrats face an historic opportunity

Senior U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says important work remains before the next Congress takes office in January.

Debbie Stabenow

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow makes her way on stage at the Michigan Democratic election night watch party at MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022.

Democrats continue celebrating an unexpectedly strong showing during the midterm elections, but Democrats in Congress only have a limited amount of time left to control both the Senate and the House.

Senior U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says important work remains before the next Congress takes office in January. She contends the Democratic party nationwide must also build on the kind of message she says produced historic electoral success in Michigan.

“I’m very excited that we’re going to be able to continue to work hard and get things done for Michigan and the American people.” — U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

Read excerpts below of Stabenow’s interview with WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter, edited for clarity.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan): The highest voter turnout in the midterm election ever, after the highest voter turnout in the presidential election back in 2020. A lot of hard work went into that, great candidates, but on top of it just a lot of hard work and organizing in terms of the entire country. I’m very excited that we’re going to be able to continue to work hard and get things done for Michigan and the American people. In the U.S. Senate we had the last two years where it was evenly divided. It doesn’t get any closer than 50-50. And despite that, we really worked hard to get things done for people, both to help families and businesses survive and thrive and all the other things that we have done to invest in opportunity for people.

Quinn Klinefelter, WDET News: When I talked to voters or some of the pundits, etc., before the election, it sounded as if there was a fair amount of apathy among some people. And yet, as you say, there was a pretty decent turnout, especially among younger voters in Michigan. Why do you think that happened?

Well, first of all, I don’t think that pundits were right all the way along with their polling. And the pundits really didn’t have an accurate feel for what was happening in Michigan. On the issue of a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive health care, there were pundits who assumed because the rallies had stopped that there wasn’t interest anymore. But what happened was the rallies stopped and folks went to work organizing to get out the vote. Women didn’t forget that their basic freedom to choose their own reproductive health care was ripped away by the United States Supreme Court. And it was very clear that if we didn’t pass Proposal 3, [a ballot measure that enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution] that was going to be the case in Michigan in terms of a loss of freedom. And so what I saw on the ground traveling all over Michigan were people who understood the seriousness of the moment.

When Republicans take control of the House, we’re back to divided governing again. Many times that seems to equal partisan fights, hearings that are called seemingly for purely political reasons and oftentimes little legislation actually getting through until maybe the next election. In your view, do you think anything can get passed when it’s that kind of a divisive climate on Capitol Hill?

We have a farm bill that needs to get passed next year that supports our farmers and food and nutrition programs and conservation programs across Michigan. [Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.] It’s always been bipartisan. And it’s my intent as the chair of the committee to do everything possible to make that a bipartisan initiative. Going forward, I’ll look for every opportunity to do the same on other issues. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will have to make their own choices on whether or not they want to join us. It’s clear that it’s going to be a rough road in the U.S. House. The Republican majority has said they’re more interested in investigations and impeaching the president, even though they don’t know the reason why they would impeach him, just, I guess, to be vindictive. And they may decide that they want to just create chaos. But I think people in the election voted, actually, to get things done. They don’t want crazy. They want things done that improve their lives. So that’s what I’m gonna continue to do. I’ll work with anybody and everybody to do it. But the Republicans will have to decide what they are going to do.

Congress is back in session now. And Democrats still control both houses at the moment. Are there any items or legislation that you guys really want to try to get passed or enacted before the new Congress would take office?

I’m very excited that immediately coming back this week we already had enough Republicans joining with us to pass legislation to protect marriage equality in our country. It’s about the LGBTQ community, family and friends who want to be able to choose who they love, who they marry. And it will be an opportunity to really do something positive for people. It’s already passed the House. We know the president will sign it. So that’s number one. We also need to get the annual defense authorization bill passed, which is important to Michigan and a lot of investments that relate to our safety and security and military readiness and supporting our troops. We also have to get a budget passed by the end of the year and we’re working very hard to do that.

You mentioned the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion helped drive the vote this time. But many voters said that inflation was one of their key issues, just the overall cost of everything now. Do you see anything that Congress can do to really try to affect that in either the short-term or the long-term?

We’re gonna see the cost of prescription drugs going down starting in January with a $35 cap on the monthly cost of insulin for anyone on Medicare. The whole effort to bring jobs home and do [semiconductor] chips manufacturing in our country is to bring down the cost of cars and trucks. And dealing with food issues to create more food processing in our country to bring down costs. Farmers aren’t making a lot of money with inflation, but all the folks in the middle are making all the money. And, by the way, part of that is price-gouging. The oil companies have seen huge profits, doubling last year’s profits this year. But we certainly didn’t see any benefit at the pump.

What’s your view of former President Trump making another run for the White House?

Unfortunate. Both for the Republican Party and certainly for the country. This is somebody who is, in my opinion, dangerous and unstable and has created more damage for Americans, for our democracy, than anyone I can think of in my lifetime. So I certainly would prefer he didn’t run. It might be politically good for Democrats. I think it’s horrible for the country.

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  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.