Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s New Memoir Recounts Storied Career

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Levin says reaching across the aisle is the key to making government work for the people.

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Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin served in Washington for 36 years, from 1979 to 2015. In that time, he sponsored legislation supporting health care, education and the environment. He also served as Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee for several years. He says some of his decisions, which were perceived as unpopular, like voting against former President Reagan’s tax cuts or the Iraq War, were made for the people’s benefit. He talks in greater detail about his time in public office in his memoir, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate.”

You don’t really believe in governing if you’re not willing to work with people who have very different views.” —Sen. Carl Levin

Listen: Sen. Carl Levin on the past, present and future of Congress.


Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin is the longest-serving senator in Michigan history. His new memoir is titled “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate.” Levin says his time on the Detroit City Council prepared him for Washington. ”I learned something very early when I was president of the City Council in Detroit: You have to work with people who have different views than you.” He says all of his votes were made in the interest of his constituents, even if they were unpopular at the time. “I am not a populist. I don’t think that the responsibility of elected officials who vote is to hold their finger up to the wind and see which way it’s blowing,” says Levin. 

Instead of getting rid of the Senate filibuster, Levin says Democrats should force people to actually filibuster by talking for a prolonged period of time. “I believe very strongly…make them stand up for weeks on end. They won’t do it. Put them to the test,” he says. The current political climate is ineffective according to Levin. ”You really don’t believe in governing if you’re not willing to work with people who have very different views.”

Web story written by Nora Rhein.

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