The federal government narrowly avoided a shutdown this week after President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep afloat through December 3rd. There are several major hurdles to overcome in Congress and a limited time to get it done. 12th District Representative Debbie Dingell joined WEMU's David Fair to share her insights on the process, the goals, and the work that remains.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. Today marks the start of a new fiscal year for both the state of Michigan and the federal government. President Biden yesterday signed a short term funding bill, avoiding a partial federal government shutdown that would have taken place at midnight. It will keep the government funded through December 3rd. But there are political standoffs to be addressed before a final budget measure is passed, and the Biden administration agenda is on the line. Joining us today is someone who has been in the middle of all of it. 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell joins us on the WEMU phone line, and I'm glad you could be here and provide some insight for us today.
Debbie Dingell: Well, good morning, David, and it's always good to be with you on Friday morning. Not sure how much insight I have.
David Fair: Yeah, well...
Debbie Dingell: But I am talking to you from the Capitol.
David Fair: So, passing a temporary budget measure yesterday, it's not exactly what any of us were looking for--you included. We would certainly like some certainty about where we're headed. What about yesterday's action, in your estimation, should we be encouraged about?
Debbie Dingell: Well, first of all, the fact is that we did pass what's called a continuing resolution. It would have been the most irresponsible thing to shut the government down in the middle of a pandemic. There were some threats by Republicans to not assist in that. Everybody finally saw the wisdom and for both the country and for all of those government workers that get up and go to work every day. We're glad that they have certainty, and this is a temporary budget that will take us through early December, where, hopefully, we will get many of the bills that have passed the House, but, as usual, are sitting over in the Senate done and fully fund the government.
David Fair: And, as you mentioned, that hard work of finishing up the budget now on the clock. First of all, are you advocating in favor of the $3.5 trillion spending package, or do you fall in line with the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party and favor a $1.5 billion budget?
Debbie Dingell: Well, you know what, David? I'm not even talking the dollars. I want to be very clear. I have said--you've heard me say it on this show--that bipartisan infrastructure package has got a lot of good things in it, and I'm always happy when Republicans and Democrats can get together on anything. But there are many things in the Build Back Better bill that are also critical. You know, two of them absolutely have many things, have many provisions, quite frankly, that are in the Build Back Better bill. But when I went to the White House and stood with the president and the three auto CEOs and Ray Curry and all the environmental groups, everybody there agreed to a voluntary target of 50 percent sales of the electric vehicles by the year 2030. Well, to get there, we've got to build out an EV infrastructure. We've got to make sure we've got a battery that's going to have range, that people have confidence in. And, even more importantly, the bill does not have enough money in it to remove the lead from every pipeline in this country. It was a study this last Monday by the JAMA Pediatrics, JAMA, which said that 50 percent of the children whose blood has been tested in this country have lead in it. And in Michigan, the numbers are even higher. I think it's four out of five children. I don't know anybody. It is not a partisan issue, Republican or Democrat. It's an American issue. We have to get the lead out of our water pipes. It harms our children. That money is in the Build Back Better. Sos I'm talking about the programs that matter: child care. I mean, I could go through a list of all of them, you know, long term care for seniors, so they don't have to be institutionalized but have an option of home based health care. So we I talk about the program. That's what I'm focused on.
David Fair: It's hard to talk about the programs without discussing the dollars, because even with the $3.5 billion dollar proposal, not necessarily all of that gets funded in its entirety. Knock that down to somewhere in between 3.5 and 1.5, where it seems it's going to land. And some of those programs may have to go away.
Debbie Dingell: That's why I'm talking and focused on the program.
David Fair: Do you think those programs can be preserved, whether it's fully funded or not?
Debbie Dingell: I'm well, and I want to understand what won't make it. The lead in water pipes and EV's have to be there. I mean, I made a pledge to my auto workers. Joe Manchin is fighting for the workers in his state. I'm fighting for the workers in my state. And global climate is real. I don't think you have many people still debating that. Transportation's almost 30 percent responsible for the carbon emissions in this country. Working together with everybody to address that, and you hear how excited the companies are about getting to EV's. We have to make that successful. We have to make sure that we're getting the lead out of pipes. Those are the kinds of things that have to be in there.
David Fair: Our conversation with Michigan's 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell continues on 89 one WEMU. Another point of contention, obviously, is the debt ceiling. On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed a measure to suspend the debt ceiling because, without that measure, the U.S. would run out of ways to pay its bills by mid-October. It is said this measure has no chance of passing in the Senate. Can that standoff be overcome in the few weeks left before the deadline?
Debbie Dingell: Well, it's going to have to get figured out. It would be singularly the most irresponsible thing this Congress could do to have this country default on its loans, to not have Social Security payments made. There's a variety of things. We would not be paying bills. And do you know what that would do to our standing in the world what it would do to our credit rating, what it would do to so many things. And Senator Mitch McConnell said we can't not let it fail. And, by the way, ninety seven percent of where that comes from is from previous administrations and much of it from Donald Trump when they cut corporate taxes, et cetera. We have to get this figured out together. The fact of the matter is Democrats have the votes to do a majority in the House and in the Senate. And Mitch McConnell says you can't default, but you're not going to do it with Republicans. And yet, it's Republicans that are blocking getting it through in the Senate. Again, I don't think there should be a partisan issue. I think we've got an important responsibility to protect our country, our economy, to not have our economy collapse, and we should be working together to get a strategy on this. It is not Republicans or Democrats. It's an American issue.
David Fair: The Biden Build Back Better plan is to be largely funded by raising corporate taxes and taxes on the top three percent of American earners. There are a lot of reports that the math just doesn't work out, and that that won't cover the cost, so, ultimately, it would become a further attack on a dwindling middle class in our country. How do you respond to those criticisms?
Debbie Dingell: Well, first of all, the bill is paid for. People have shown where the taxes are going to come from. And, by the way, even the business roundtable has come in and agreed with where some of these corporate tax rate increases are. So, I think, you know, we're living in a time that there's a lot of people throwing out--I don't want a them facts because they're using the word that Donald Trump would use, fake news or fake facts. We need to do a better job of explaining about how exactly everything is going to get paid for. But the President has made it very clear, and the Democrats in the House and the Senate have made it very clear that anybody, a family of that is making less than $400,000, will not be impacted by increased taxes and actually should be benefiting from a tax cut when you look at the child tax credit. So, the families with children are getting more income to be able to help take care of those children. And there's a number of things. I don't know what's going to ultimately end up in this bill. That's one of the things I'm working very hard--last night, today--to understand where all the discussions and negotiations are. But this Congress--the Democrats in this Congress--and the White House and the President are committed to ensuring that the middle class does not have increased costs.
David Fair: Once again, we're talking with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell on 89 one WEMU. As always, there are political considerations at play. The midterm election is about 13 months away now. Republicans see it as a way to retake control of both the House and Senate. If this plan goes down to defeat on top of the immigration crisis, the handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, it could be a blow to Democrats. What conversations are you and your colleagues having about those ramifications?
Debbie Dingell:] Look, we're just focused on getting the job done right now. A lot of people like to say there's a lot of division. People are pitted. You know, we're united, and that failure is not an option. We are united in that we have to deliver. The Democrats needs to deliver for the American people. We've got it. You know, we have helped communities with the COVID relief plans that we've done, deal with many of the problems that have come up from the COVID pandemic for the last year. We've ensured that everybody has access to vaccines and tests. Now, we got to get more people to go get tested, and we're talking about what do we get. What we have to do is to deliver on the promises that President Biden made when he got elected president.
David Fair: And toward that end, what does the week ahead look like in the House and for you as we have to move closer to resolution and reconciliation?
Debbie Dingell: Well, you know, I kind of said something last Sunday that became a bit of viral, which was it's going to be the week from Hell. It has been, I think. But what's good is that people are talking to each other. You know, David, there's too much people that stoppped talking to each other, listening to each other, figuring out what we're going to do. We're legislating. It could be a long weekend. We've got to do both the debt ceiling, and we've got to figure out our next steps and where we go. So, I'm working. But that's what I was elected to do. The people of the 12th District sent me here to Washington to work hard, make sure the interests are represented and to be heard. And Congress is about coming together. And so, we're going to get it figured out, and we are not leaving until we get something that's going to deliver.
David Fair: And why don't you and I get together again next Friday and update as to where we stand?
Debbie Dingell: Right. Thank you, David. And everybody be safe and have a good week.
David Fair: That is Representative Debbie Dingell. She is 12th District representative from Dearborn, representing portions of Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair, and this is your community nPR station 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
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