Dingell supports increased U.S. defense spending and the America COMPETES Act
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. I'm David Fair, and we're now six weeks into the Russian invasion and war on Ukraine. President Biden's budget is drawing some mixed reviews. And COVID numbers are climbing once again. Those are some of the topics we're going to cover today in our conversation with 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Representative Dingell, thank you so much for the time today.
Debbie Dingell: David, it is always good to talk to you.
David Fair: Most agree that Russia thought the war on Ukraine would largely be over by now. The people of Ukraine and its leadership still stand strong. Some believe the U.S. and its NATO allies should be doing more. In your opinion, have the support efforts been enough?
Debbie Dingell: So, first of all, on a number of things, I was not one that thought that the war would be over by now. If you were talking to our military experts or intelligence experts, not only from this country, but for NATO, they saw the strength and the courage and the will of the Ukrainian people, and they knew and have warned us that this will be a long war.
David Fair: Russia didn't think so, though.
Debbie Dingell: Russia may not have thought so, but it was become very clear that Russia was unprepared for this war and, quite frankly, that Russia was not prepared for the allies or for NATO to be a strong and united in so many countries in the world to feel as strongly as they do about this very unprovoked war in Ukraine and the immorality of it. So, we, by the way, have had many meetings myself this week with not only members of the Ukrainian parliament but of the Romanian and the Polish parliament, and we are walking a very delicate line. I think we are all doing everything we can to make sure we're getting humanitarian aid there, that they have the support of the weapons and the tools that they need. You know, if I was President Zelensky, keep asking for everything, and he is a very strong and effective leader in Ukraine. I don't believe that we should be doing a military strategy and national security strategy on cable TV or morning radio shows. I think a lot of aid is being given to them. We are walking a very delicate line, not wanting to put boots on the ground at this moment in time in Ukraine or to engage in war with Russia. The other issue is for those that are real students of all of this is that we need to make sure that Ukraine knows how to handle the military tools that they have, how you get them to the right places. There are a lot of people working to make sure they have the support that they need. And it's not just the United States--with many allies around the world.
David Fair: And with that in mind, the European Union today meets with China, and while issues of unfair trade practices and economic manipulation will certainly be a part of the conversations, the top agenda item is trying to win assurance that China won't support Russia and will not interfere with NATO's sanctions. U.S.-China relations. Obviously, not the best. What chance is there the allies get China to stay out of the effort as the sanctions continue to economically hurt and isolate Russia?
Debbie Dingell: So, actually, the consul general from China drove to Michigan to meet with me last week, last Friday, and I think that they wanted to discuss these concerns. They know that we are watching very closely. They assured me in that conversation that Russia is a friend of China. Ukraine is a friend of China. And the United States is a friend of China. We also had some very candid statements about other things. I believe, right now, that China does not want to become engaged in this war, that they want to help try to solve it. And I think today's meeting will be very important.
David Fair: As we discuss Russia and China, the U.S. seems ready to tackle corruption and kleptocracy with the America COMPETES Act. The Senate passed a measure earlier this week. A vote is being prepared in the House. This multibillion dollar legislation addresses the U.S. supply chain and research, as well as development issues to lessen dependence on Chinese manufactured products. And it's a measure that, at least in the Senate, has a good degree of bipartisan support. You're going to vote in favor, right?
Debbie Dingell: I most definitely am going to vote in favor of it. And I have been urging my leader, Nancy Pelosi, that this bill must get done as soon as possible. We did have a vote on it again on the floor last night. I'm hoping we're in conference. This bill has to get passed. This would invest $52 billion in the domestic manufacturing of desperately needed someone to conduct your chips. I've already been told by Ford that Flat Rock is going to be down again next week because they don't have the chips. This is a competitive issue, and I sometimes wish my colleagues who lived on the coast would get a sense of urgency about the need to get this done. And I hope that we are going to get this done in the next few weeks.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. A part of President Biden's budget proposal includes a roughly 10 percent increase in military spending, and it goes up to a total of $773 billion. Now that's more than the combined military spending of the next 11 countries, and there's certainly an argument with all that's going on in Ukraine to make that investment. But is it in justifiable in your mind?
Debbie Dingell: You know, it does make the largest investment in our national security in U.S. history. But right now, with all of the threats that we are seeing around the world, we need to strengthen our military and leverage our renewed strength at home to meet these pressing global challenges. And, quite frankly, when you spend time, which I have been during these last few weeks, both Russia and China are ahead of us, and they develop supersonic missiles and other forms of technology that we need to stay current on. Deterrence has always been a form of significant foreign policy and national security. And as we have seen by the invasion into Ukraine, we had a period of peace in the world where we were hoping we were not going to have to invest in these kinds of things. But it is very clear that we need to ensure that we are protecting our country. I believe that is one of the most important things that we're going to do when we need to do this.
David Fair: Is there something wrong in the process that we're spending more than the next 11 countries combined? And yet we've fallen behind in many areas of China and Russia?
Debbie Dingell: I think that our country needs to understand what we have to do to compete with Russia and China. We are a democracy. Those two countries aren't. They have autocrats. They have dictators. But we must make sure that we are armed to go up against not only these two countries, but North Korea, Iran. We have countries that are not democracies with men running them and leading them that one has to worry about their morals with how they feel about world peace and what they are willing to do. And if the United States wants to stay a free and independent country in a world leader, we need to be prepared to protect ourselves.
David Fair: Back in January of 1961, in his farewell address from office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex. And I quote here, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Are we now living in the worst of Eisenhower's fears?
Debbie Dingell: I agree with everything that President Eisenhower said. I think we have seen some of this actually. When you look at the amount of power some of these defense firms have gotten these private contractors. But I think our fear and reaction to that may at times not have us invest in where we need to do or to ensure that we are staying or keeping our nation secure. So, what we have in the Congress and something I think is very important, there are three branches of government. Three independent branches of government. And it's a system of checks and balances. And we need to make sure we're keeping a check on the Defense Department. You may remember that I'm a very different person from my husband, but he was a very great man. He put checks on the Defense Department and brought out many of these kinds of instances that you were talking about in the 90s and became a target of some of those private contractors. We have to make sure that we have strong people in government. You elect people that will hold people accountable, but we'll also do what we must do to protect our national security.
David Fair: We're talking with Debbie Dingell, and we have time for one more question. And I did want to touch on it because it impacts us here in Michigan and around the country. COVID cases are rising across the country and certainly here at home, and the ripple effects can be staggering. Last month, President Biden requested another $22 billion for COVID relief funding. Where does that stand today?
Debbie Dingell: We have to get the COVID funding done. It was pulled out three weeks ago because, quite frankly, states like Michigan would have been unfairly penalized, while New York and California and other states had gotten all of their money. But that does not mean we are working. The Senate has been working. Republicans want an offset to find it because it must get done. I wanted to say if people are listening to us, David, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County is in the high area again. Cases are on the way up. We're done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us. And we need to just use common sense, the same common sense things we were being told to do. Wear your mask when you're in a crowded area. Keep some distance in space. Wash your hands. I got my fourth booster this week. And we do need to make sure that everybody who wants a fourth booster get the fourth booster. We have money for them to manufacture antiviral pills that will help people if they take it very early and continue research and development for new vaccines that are going to be needed as this virus mutates.
David Fair: Thank you so much for the time today, and I'll look forward to our next conversation.
Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Have a good week.
David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell. From the moment, she represents the 12th Congressional District, but will run for reelection in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and HD One Ypsilanti.
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