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Rep. Dingell addresses Ukraine crisis, US-Canadian border protests, and MI E-V infrastructure

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David Fair: And this 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. There is a lot going on at the federal level, and as always, in one way or another, it all has impacts here at home. Today, we're checking back in with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And, Representative Dingell, thank you so much for making time at the end of another busy week.

Debbie Dingell: David, it is always good to talk to you, and it's even better to be home away from the intensity of all of this.

David Fair: I can bet. But as we talk about intensity, we're watching with great concern as is much of the world, the growing tensions between the U.S. and other NATO nations and Russia. As it appears, Russia is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine. It should be noted Russian authorities are denying that assertion, but the saber rattling and posturing from all sides feels very much like Cold War era politics. Based on the intelligence you are getting and what you see happening at the Pentagon and the White House, can peace be maintained?

Debbie Dingell: Well, David, I remain very concerned about the Russian military buildup that we are seeing in Ukraine, which threatens European security and the rules-based international order. So, I support the Biden administration's diplomatic engagement with Russia. You saw a variety of meetings this week. I think the president's meeting with the new German chancellor. It was a very positive step. They've made it clear that we are on the same page. It appears there was not a good meeting yesterday in Britain between Britain and Russia. I hope that war is not inevitable, and I hope--I know we are--that we're continuing to explore mutually agreed ways to de-escalate the situation without harming our national security and that we've got to maintain a strong NATO alliance. But this is a very dangerous situation, one that's keeping me up at night, and I monitor it every day.

David Fair: Should the first bullet fly, it seems there will be almost no stopping the trek towards a Third World War. That sound right to you?

Debbie Dingell: No, I just not going to let that be. We have to...I think all of us are struggling with what we do right now. I'm a strong supporter of the transatlantic relationship between the United States and our European allies while I've been in the Congress. This situation underscores the need for us to have close coordination on our common defense and security challenges. But none of us want a Third World War, and quite frankly, the danger of a nuclear war should frighten all of us. So, I am hopeful that diplomatic negotiations are going to work. We're going to all stay focused on doing it. And then it becomes very do we need as a Congress. I think we had a war in Iraq that was really not authorized for too many years. And do we take a vote in the Congress, whether we do go to war? However, I do know we have a responsibility to Ukraine and our European allies. This is a very complicated time.

David Fair: Is this this generation's Cuban Missile Crisis?

Debbie Dingell: I think it could be. I think many probably don't realize how serious this is. I think, you know, when we did the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba was much closer to us, and we were concerned that we could see those bombs in our country. I mean, I remember--I think we all do--the..well not we all. I guess I'm not as young as I used to be--the bomb drills that we would actually have in schools. So many may not see the immediate danger of this, because Ukraine is not as close to us. But it's a very serious situation.

David Fair: We're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell on 89 one WEMU. While we watch that situation unfold, you can be rest assured Russia is watching the U.S. has political turmoil continues to unfold. This week, another temporary budget extension was passed to keep the government running. It's the third time that's been necessary. How far away are we from agreement to a fully passed budget?

Debbie Dingell: Well, the good news this week was what we call the Four Corners, the four senior..the two Republicans and the two Democrats in both the House and Senate that lead these negotiations, reached an agreement in principle. And I do believe that we will pass a budget in early March.

David Fair: When it comes to the Biden political and budget agenda, it's been a mixed bag over his first two years, polling numbers now at all time lows as we enter the heart of the midterm election year. The ramifications could impact election outcomes in many congressional and gubernatorial races around the country. What leadership strategy needs to be asserted at this point?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I think, you know, there are two issues that are on everybody's mind. COVID. People are sick of it and overlays everything. Fortunately, you know, we have the Delta surge here in Michigan in November and then the Omicron surge. And it's just everybody is grumpy. They're sick of it, even though COVID is not done with us, and we have to look towards the future of how we are going to deal with COVID because it's not going away, and people are ready to get back to a new normal. So, we've got to live with COVID. That's one issue. The numbers yesterday on inflation were the highest in 40 years. Inflation is real. I mean, that's doing any kind of shopping, be it, you know, I am in the grocery store. Many of us are. Some are still online. Prices are up. So, we have to address inflation, which is a very complicated issue. It's coming out of COVID. It's coming out of supply chain issues. Economists believe that it'll start to go down in the next few months, but we've got to make sure we're addressing both of those issues because they overlay everything.

David Fair: And, as you know all week, we've had trucker protests at the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Canada. And the auto industry, among others, continues to further suffer through the supply issues. Yesterday, President Biden, Governor Whitmer, and you all issued statements calling for this to come to an end. Have you received any new information over the last 24 hours?

Debbie Dingell: Well, I'm in constant conversation, David. I am talking to all parties involved in this, from the White House cabinet secretaries to the autos. I talk to the autos this morning, and it is impacting them. Plants--it's not just Michigan plants--are going down. It's on the Canadian side in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, all of the companies are suffering from this. And I think what people need to know, people have the right to protest. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right I will always protect. But many of the people that are associated with this are not truckers. The Canadian truckers have disassociated themselves with what is happening. Many of this is well organized, and many of them, quite frankly, are former military. So, we need to be concerned. What they're doing on the bridge is keeping people from earning a wage. It is hurting working families. It is contributing to increased costs. It's got to stop.

David Fair: Our conversation with Representative Debbie Dingell from the 12th Congressional District continues on 89 one WEMU, and I do want to take some time to discuss some truly positive news that came out of Washington yesterday. You had occasion to join U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm--of course, our former governor--and others in announcing $16 million in federal funding to build out electric vehicle charging stations across the state. That does sound like positive progress.

Debbie Dingell: It was great. It was great to be with all of my friends. I'm working very hard. We are going to transition to electric vehicles. You see that all of the auto companies have this in the product portfolio, but people aren't going to buy electric vehicles if they don't have confidence in the range. And if they don't know that they're going to be able to charge their vehicles. I'm committed. This state put the world on wheels. I am committed to keeping the state at the forefront of mobility. And this is a great opportunity for us to shine. The money that was announced yesterday will go to all of the states, but Michigan's more prepared than many other states to begin to use this money. There's additional money that will also--it was announced yesterday--the money going directly to the states for further grants. And this is where we need to go. Transportation is responsible for almost 30 percent of carbon emissions. Nobody can say global climate is not real. We've seen the impact in our own state, but we can build vehicles here, protect jobs, pay workers good wages. If we get people to transition to electric vehicles, which means they've got to be affordable, we've got to have batteries with range, and we have to have the infrastructure.

David Fair: And with all of that in mind, it is an important investment. But, as far as what will truly take to get us to that end goal you speak of, it's a drop in the bucket. So, what comes next to further move us away from the fossil fuel transportation systems we rely on?

Debbie Dingell: So, I'm working with many ways to do this. There is money that's in the infrastructure bill. This is part of it. It's going to help on that transition. There are other things that we are looking at from providing a tax credit to help make the vehicles more affordable as that transition is going, to investing in R&D, develop batteries that have a further range, and building up this easy infrastructure and upgrading the power grid, by the way. But the plans where we was in the build back better bill, which is in everybody's favorite bill, I think that there are discussions about how to take the critical things that were in there and get a new package and get that through. But the autos are very committed to this. The unions are very committed to this. And, quite frankly, David, the way that I put the table together last year of the environmentalists and the unions to listen to each other, hear their concerns we found, and it had a White House ceremony once everybody agreed to that target of 50 percent. And now, I've got a table. But the environmentalist community, the unions again, how can we mine minerals in the U.S. so we decrease our dependency on China or those batteries?

David Fair: Well, I thank you for the time today, and I will look forward to our conversation next Friday.

Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Everybody be safe and healthy.

David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell representing the 12th Congressional District now, but under redrawn political maps, will run for reelection in the new 6th Congressional District. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD One Ypsilanti.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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