Dingell votes in favor of Ukraine aid and omnibus spending plan
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and, this week, the U.S. House has passed a spending measure that is to provide aid to Ukraine and keep the federal government running through the end of September and the start of a new fiscal year, October 1st. The House also had to remove a portion of the spending plan that would have provided additional economic pandemic relief. I'm David Fair and, as you can tell, there is a lot to unpack in there and here to help us through it is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Thank you so much for the time today, Representative Dingell.
Debbie Dingell: Good morning, David. And it is always great to be with you on Friday morning. This ends my week on a nice note.
David Fair: Well, on Wednesday of this week, you were among those voting in favor of allocating thirteen point six billion dollars to the effort to aid and support Ukraine and the omnibus extension that provides $1.5 billion to keep the federal government running. What about those packages earned your vote?
Debbie Dingell: Well, there are many things. Well, first of all, we have to help Ukraine. There are two different bills here. I mean, I think the world is watching in horror as we see the atrocities that Russia is committing against the people of Ukraine in a very unprovoked, unwarranted war. And we ourselves, as Americans, do not want to put boots on the ground. We do not want to go to war with Russia because the consequences of that are terrifying and what it would mean for the world. But the bravery, the courage, the strength of the people of Ukraine, those who study history, what we're witnessing there and we're witnessing it in real time in ways that we did not witness it in the thirties, in the forties, cannot help but be worried about democracies around the world. This package was critical, and we did it in conjunction with our allies in Europe and around the world as well. The omnibus bill is the first time in several years we've actually gotten appropriations bills done. And there is money in this bill to fund so many different and critical parts of government programs that people count on in the state, from education to roads. And there were very specific projects in there that will benefit the people of the 12th District as well.
David Fair:Your staff sent out a press release yesterday, saying that about $14 million was headed to the district?
Debbie Dingell: That is true. It is for a variety of projects throughout the district that will help Eastern University. It will help work with law enforcement. It is a recreation center for Washtenaw County, programs for access for Wyandotte hospital and a variety of housing in Ann Arbor. It's 10 different programs that will make a difference at a very local level.
David Fair: Now, as we explore the ongoing situation in Ukraine, I would anticipate that additional allocations for aid to Ukraine will become necessary during the course of the existing fiscal year. Do you see that coming back up over the next several months?
Debbie Dingell: I think it is our responsibility--mine in the Congress, but as Americans--to monitor very closely what is happening in Ukraine. We are now getting reports that it is likely that Russia will use chemical and biological weapons. We do need to worry about potential war spreading. What could happen in Europe? What could happen in our own country? We need to be vigilant. We've been very fortunate that our intelligence agencies have done an outstanding job of collecting information and monitoring it and for the safety and security of our country and the world. We need to be prepared to do what we must do on a regular and daily basis.
David Fair: Have you had conversations among your colleagues about what line could be crossed by Vladimir Putin and Russia that would draw the U.S. into combat?
Debbie Dingell: I think all of us want to keep that from happening. I think people need it, and I think this is a very complicated situation, David. I think people don't understand why are we not doing the no fly zone over Ukraine. We look at that convoy of trucks, and every last one of us or most of us. Why are we not bombing it? Why are we not destroying it? But, we do not want war with Russia. For this country, the consequences are terrifying. So, we talk about it. We monitor it every day. We talk about it. I think there are things that should not even be discussed publicly as we navigate American strategy. Many of us have, you know, individual thoughts about certain people involved. But Chairman Milley, who is chair of the joint chiefs, has been very clear that we need strong, steady leadership, and we cannot enter into rabbit holes in public discussions that will endanger us and potentially escalate a situation that could rapidly go out of control before we know it.
David Fair: With national security in mind, we understand that sometimes there are things we probably should not know about in advance, but there are issues that need to be very transparent. This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. I mentioned the removal of the pandemic relief package from the extension bill. The Biden administration had initially proposed spending twenty two and a half billion dollars towards those efforts. Earlier this week, bipartisan negotiators dropped that down to 15 billion. And then on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to pull it from the bill, saying it was the only way to even get a House vote on the Ukrainian government funding part of the measures to a vote. What happened?
Debbie Dingell: I'm going to be very clear on this. And, yes, I was one of the people that went in and fought hard for the people of Michigan. You know, none of us necessarily loved the way that all of this comes together. And when you get a 2,700 page bill that you're asked to vote on in 24 hours, there are things that are in that bill that you don't know about. And it came to my attention on Tuesday night that--I want to make it very, very, very clear before we even begin this discussion. We were not ready for the last pandemic. And I totally believe we need to be giving the resources to this administration--into any administration--so that we are ready for the next public health crisis. Those resources do need to be put into place. And I will do whatever it takes to try to make sure that those resources get there, but that needs to be done in a fair and equitable way. And, some place, I still cannot figure out exactly where it happened. Republicans wanted an offset to that expenditure before it was spent, and some place, people, or a series of options were put on the table, and the option that they chose would have hurt our state of Michigan and 29 other states. When the tranches of money were appropriated in the American Recovery Plan a year ago, some states got their money in one tranche and some states got their money in two tranches. Michigan was one of the states that was getting their money in two tranches. So we do not get our next moneys until May. They were going to take away money that our communities are planning for--money that our state is counting on to the tune of almost 600 million dollars. And New York got its money all in one payment. California got its money on one payment. Connecticut, 20 states in total had all their money. It was not fair to do that at the cost of states like Michigan. And I felt very strongly, and I and a number of our colleagues made sure that every state that was being impacted knew about it. And I will work very hard and support our leadership that we must find the money. But that was not the way. It was not a fair, equitable way to do it, and I would not have the people of the state of Michigan penalized.
David Fair: Well, here's what we're told is going to happen. Federal testing capacity will begin to decline this month. Free testing and treatment for those without health insurance will end in April. And the supply of monoclonal antibodies, which has saved countless lives, will run out in May. That doesn't leave a lot of time for further negotiation. How quickly can something get done to prevent what I just described?
Debbie Dingell: David, I agree with you. I agree with that concern. I am working every hour since this all happened to how do we find those moneys. We initially were going to put a separate bill on the floor on Wednesday. It will be brought up next week. What you just said is unacceptable, but I hope the people listening here will also agree that penalizing the state of Michigan and Midwestern states was unacceptable too. We can do both. We certainly seem to manage to do it for other things. And my job is to fight for the people in Michigan and for the people of this country, and we need to do both.
David Fair: We're talking with Representative Debbie Dingell on WEMU. And while the government continues its arguments over how best to spend those taxpayer dollars, the people of America are spending significantly more just to get through day-to-day life. Inflation at a 40 year high, gas prices an all time high, as is the cost of meat and most other food items and consumer products. Hardship is here and is going to stick around in a while. But I want to look at this from a little different perspective. Don't you think the fact that a majority of Americans are struggling to deal with a dollar more per gallon and per pound of meat says there is a much deeper problem in America?
Debbie Dingell: I think that's a complicated question. I think we have a very real problem, and I feel it just like every other American does. There are many factors that are contributing to this right now. COVID has taken a real...it has hit us all hard. We were seeing increase in gasoline prices. Let's be honest. Inflation was hitting us in the grocery store before the war with Ukraine broke out. I do believe that some of the issues are being impacted. We're really seeing a change in the way the economy is run. I think it is good that workers are being paid more. It is a workers' market right now. The law of supply and demand is there. People are starting to go back to the workforce more. I think that's going to begin to address some of the issues, because we haven't had people even able to work to produce products. We've had real supply chain issues. I am pushing so hard for our leadership to finally get this chips bill and the supply chain bills passed so that we can incentivize bringing chips back home to this country so we are not chip production. When I started at General Motors, we made almost 40 percent of the world's chips in this country. We're down to less than 12 percent and dependent upon Taiwan, which if China decides to go to war, the thought is terrifying. We've passed it in the House and Senate. We need a conference, and we need to get it done. Logistics issues, supply chain issues are easing. I think you will see some easing of prices later in the year on some daily staples. But we need to bring our supply chains back home. We cannot be dependent on other countries. 90 percent of many of our medicines are made in China. Do we really want to be dependent on China for that much of our medicine? These are real issues. We've got to stop this partisan bickering. We have bills that are sitting there ready to be finalized. We need to get it done.
David Fair: We do have increasing incomes. However, we also have increasing income and wage disparities. We have a system that is proven devastating to the middle class, and we are having the least able to afford it help prop up hedge funds, the stock market, and corporate profits from which they aren't getting bottom line benefit. When the majority of America got behind trickle down economics in the Reagan era, the biggest mistake was putting the beneficiaries in charge of the spigot. We're 40 years down the line, and that hasn't changed. Can it change at this point?
Debbie Dingell: I think you've seen a lot of discussions. People are asking about, you know, one of the things that I worry about. People are asking for a tax holiday on gas tax. People are saying we need to do something. A lot of people are very frustrated about our oil supply. It's not as simple as people think. I want everybody to know that every CEO of every oil companies salaries have just continued to skyrocket. They're not passing it along. They're not lowering the price. And one of the things I worry about if we do have a gas tax holiday, how much of that's going to go? How much of it will ever get to the consumer? And I'll tell you right now--not enough. We're talking about people don't understand that, you know, they talk about, let's get the Keystone pipeline going. That oil isn't going to go to America. We don't have refineries that refine the heavy oil that would go through that pipeline. These oil companies right now have nine thousand permits--drilling permits--to go into lands and to get more natural gas, get more oil. But they're not using it, because they're putting the money into their stockholders and their executive salaries. We have to have this discussion. We need Americans to understand what is happening. And you know, I'm a free marketer. I believe in a free market, but I do think that you reach a point where people are being screwed--excuse my language this early, but I can get worked up pretty fast. And how do we address it in a fair way that keeps us a free market but does not penalize consumers, customers, and the middle class the way you are talking about?
David Fair: Thank you so much for the time today, and I will look forward to our continuing conversation next Friday.
Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David.
David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell. For the moment, she is representing the 12th Congressional District, but under the redrawn political maps, will run for reelection in the new 6th Congressional District, and she will make the move to Ann Arbor to do so. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD One Ypsilanti.
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