Won’t answer whether she’ll run for Stabenow’s Senate seat
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – From the environment to the economy, to health care, infrastructure and international issues, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-6th District) spoke Jan. 23 about the issues important to her constituents.
At a breakfast meeting of the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber at Crystal Gardens in Southgate, Dingell spoke for more than 35 minutes and answered questions for 15 minutes on a wide range of topics, including whether she would run for Debbie Stabenow’s U.S. Senate seat when Stabenow retires.
Dingell said she does want to keep the seat Democratic, and said many people have called her about it.
“I’ve not said no,” she said. “I love my communities and I want to know what’s coming up, what their problems are and what we need to do and how we’re going to work together to fix them, and that is who I am.”
Dingell said a Senate run requires a candidate to raise $50 to $70 million hard dollars and another $50 to $60 million soft dollars.
Money contributed directly to a specific candidate is known as hard money, while contributions to political parties and political action committees are known as soft money. While there are limits that donors may give to a specific candidate, there are no limits to contributions made to a political party or PAC.
Dingell said that while she doesn’t enjoy political fundraising, she hasn’t said no to a Senate run because she is working with other Democratic leaders to make sure a strong candidate runs for Stabenow’s seat.
Dingell said the national government debt ceiling must be addressed and those who would block it for political showmanship accomplish nothing.
She said since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 or 30 times under Democratic presidents.
Dingell said the national economy and the country’s economic and national security are at issue and the country cannot default on its debts.
“It would have devastating impact that primarily hurt working families, it could cause a recession and it could delay Social Security payments and affect interest rates,” she said. “It is not simply a partisan issue.”
Dingell said the debt ceiling was raised three times during the Trump administration.
She said at the end of 2022, the omnibus bill passed that provided $36 million in direct investments to the Downriver community.
“From clean energy initiatives and PFAS remediation, to infrastructure upgrades, workforce training and conservation,” Dingell said.
She said $1.8 million will provide for a homeless shelter system in out-Wayne County.
Dingell said it is important that federal funding reaches communities where it is most needed.
She said addressing pollution and contamination is a priority, which affects everything, including soil, drinking water and the air.
“Access to clean and affordable water is a basic human right,” Dingell said. “I am worried that we are looking at water shutoffs again. We have to figure it out so that everybody has access to water.”
She said there is money in the infrastructure bill to continue to help replace lead water pipes.
Dingell said the Downriver Community Conference is managing one of the best Brownfield programs in the country and has received about $20 million since 1999 and has supported assessment and cleanup activities at more than 300 Brownfield sites.
Brownfield sites are former industrial or commercial sites where future use is impacted by environmental contamination.
“I am going to work to continue to ensure that we continue to get those resources to Downriver, making communities cleaner, healthier, more vibrant places to work and raise a family,” she said.
Dingell said the important cleanup of the McLouth site continues and it will need to be redeveloped.
“This is a great area to live, but we have to bring development down here, too, so we do have the jobs, we do have the tax base,” she said. “DTE is the next challenge. While the closing is good for the environment, but that brings challenges and we work together to make sure this is a win for everybody in the community.”
Dingell said Michigan has an opportunity to be leaders in the new era of mobility as world leaders in automotive innovation and manufacturing.
She said that last September, the Detroit Regional Partnership Foundation received $52 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to launch the Global Epicenter of Mobility, which will support the advancement of a smart, secure, sustainable and inclusive advanced mobility industry in southeast Michigan.
“Our strengths that have driven the growth of the automotive sector for more than a century will help us transform our area’s economy into a robust and growing industrial mobility hub,” Dingell said. “We have the immense capabilities of a century’s old auto industry to support the transition of cutting edge mobility and help keep our region forefront of manufacturing and innovation across the globe.”
She said the consequences of a supply chain disruption, specifically the semiconductor chip shortage, have been seen first-hand in Michigan.
“Those plants matter to our local economy and our workers were impacted,” Dingell said. “Last summer we finally passed the Chips and Science Act which allocated $54.2 billion to build a semiconductor chip manufacturing and supply chain here in the United States.”
She said $2 billion of that went for “mature technology,” which is what vehicles use.
“We have to continue to strengthen our domestic supply chain and bring those jobs back home,” Dingell said. “We cannot be dependent on another country for parts or for medicine.”
She said that 90 percent of the country’s generic drugs are made in China, which is both an economic and national security issue.
Dingell said the pandemic taught the country that it should not let itself be dependent on a country like China for medicine and equipment.
She said that road and bridge repair is also a priority, and every residence should have access to broadband for fast Internet connections.
Dingell said the closing of the Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge impacted the lives of many residents and underscores how important it is to fix local infrastructure and then to maintain it.
“We did not maintain our roads and bridges for decades and that is part of why they are so bad and it has to be a priority,” she said. “We cannot let partisan dickering any more over some of these things.”
On the medical front, Dingell said that effective Jan. 1 recommended vaccines will be free of charge to people with Medicare prescription drug coverage, and includes the shingles vaccine, which can cost hundreds of dollars.
She said she knows too many people who are putting off dental or health care because they cannot afford it.
Dingell also spoke out against drug prices that increase faster than the rate of inflation.
She said she will continue to work across the aisle, and she thinks that the American public is tired of partisan bickering.
Dingell said the Henry Ford Health System is one of the biggest employers in Wayne County and she is working closely with them to support front line health care workers to help ensure that they can provide the health care services critical to communities.
She said she is also working to expand access to home- and community-based care so that seniors and people with disabilities can get the care they need in the setting of their choice, and that care workers get the pay and benefits that they deserve.
Dingell said it is also important for caregivers to get respite care for themselves.
“Daycare is important, but senior care is one of the growing problems in our community,” she said.
Dingell said protecting wildlife and the environment is one of the issues that is nearest and dearest to her heart, and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was import to her late husband, John Dingell, and remains important to her.
“The refuge is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we come together as a community to protect our natural resources,” she said.
Dingell said the Detroit River and the Great Lakes cannot be taken for granted. She also expressed concern over the PFAS found in fish.
She said that the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform, which isn’t getting done because it is too touchy of a political issue.
Dingell said the fentanyl deaths are frightening to her and she doesn’t know how to solve it.
She also talked about gun violence and said that since Jan. 1 there have been 33 mass shootings in the United States.
“These are tough issues, and we need to actually try to solve some of these problems because they are a threat to all of us,” Dingell said.
She said as vehicles switch from gas to electric, the way road work is funded will need to change, since gas tax revenue will decrease.
Dingell also defended U.S. foreign aid, and said that the money going to Ukraine is crucial to support its democracy.