Dingell applauds bipartisan support for Ukraine assistance and legislation supporting the Great Lakes
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair. Vladimir Putin and Russia continue to rattle the nuclear saber as its invasion continues and NATO countries continue to send more weaponry to Ukraine to use in its defense. And the U.S. House this week approved the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act. That was a measure co-sponsored by our guest today. Representative Debbie Dingell currently is in the Michigan 12th District, which covers portions of Washtenaw County. Congresswoman Dingell, thank you so much for making time today.
Debbie Dingell: David, it's always good to be with you and your listeners.
David Fair: Right. President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress to approve $33 billion more in funding to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion. He also asked U.S. lawmakers to make it easier for the federal government to sell off assets seized from sanctioned Russians to help fund the Ukrainian war effort. In your opinion, is this the right direction?
Debbie Dingell: Look. What is happening in Ukraine is a fight for democracy around the world. We have not seen our allies--Europe--as united as they are right now because people understand what the danger of this unprovoked, unjustified war on Ukraine is. Now, overnight, we're seeing Russian troops practice for their May Day parade, and they're actually parading nuclear weapons. You know, when I was very young, we worried about a nuclear attack on this country. And I had hoped that we were reaching a point in our children's lives that they might not have to worry about nuclear war, that we were hitting nuclear detente. It is very real. It is something that is in my mind every single day when I go to work, and I worry about what we're going to do. This is more support for Ukraine. It's one of those few rare, bipartisan moments and such a serious issue as there is in Washington. We're studying the president's proposal now, but I do believe that we must. I don't want boots on the ground, but that we must join our allies in giving them the support that they need.
David Fair: I think it's hard to determine if Vladimir Putin is expressing confidence in his position on Ukraine and what he considers Western interference, or if he's acting and talking out of desperation. Perhaps, it's a combination of both, and you kind of just touched on it, but what level of alarm is there among your colleagues in Washington?
Debbie Dingell: I think we're taking this war very seriously. I know that, as an elected official for the people of my district, one of the biggest responsibility I have is to keep them safe. National security matters. And my job is to help keep the United States safe. And we are safe when we do not see the kinds of wars that you are seeing that has taken place in Ukraine. The spirit, the courage, the strength of the Ukrainian people inspires me. Every day this week, I have met with many parliamentarians, some from Ukraine, the mayor of Warsaw, Romania, the president. Some were in for Madeleine Albright's funeral. The discussions I'm having with them. None of us, none of us can take what we have for granted. We went to Askubal, and we learned about what a great country we lived in and we talked about freedom of press and freedom of speech and freedom of media, freedom of religion. That's really under attack right now. We need to understand that. So, our challenge is how do we keep the world safe without putting our country at risk, and at the same time, and what is our moral responsibility to humanitarian aid as well.
David Fair: And that can go in a number of different directions. Now, Vladimir Putin has cut off oil supplies to both Poland and Bulgaria. And there is the possibility he moves in the near future to cut off the rest of the European Union as well. Should that come to pass, how much closer does that move us to World War Three in defense of the principles you just outlined?
Debbie Dingell: Well, we're not going to let it happen. He is making his place, but we have already begun exporting LNG. You know, we had a hearing yesterday. And every permit that can be granted for increasing LNG production in the United States has been, I think, you know, not all of this needs to be negotiated out in the public, but their nuclear energy facilities that were being brought down. I think we need to look at it, and I know that continuing to keep them going right now is one of the strategies that's being looked at. There were both inside of our country and other countries. People are looking at taking down different kinds of utilities that produced energy. They're instead of taking them totally down or going to keep them so they can be brought up. A lot of work to be done, David. And that's what we all have to do, and we have to do it together.
David Fair: So, we have discussed, in some of our prior conversations, it's unwise to be too specific about plans for national defense. However, I do think it's important to understand the level of preparedness in all events. Again, you've been touching on some of the measures already underway, and more are likely on the way. Do you have any level of concern that the U.S. is ready to deal with both best- and worst-case scenarios?
Debbie Dingell: I don't know. I believe that the United States--I want to say this. I think all of us remember Afghanistan. And it was a horrifying sight. I mean, I'm honest. You know that. It left us all with this sense of unease. I have talked to many parliamentarians, government leaders from European countries, Asian countries in the course of the last two months. They have all, without fail, talked about how good our intelligence has been from the United States. We are spending a lot of time as caucuses, as in committees, looking at the materials and what we are producing, what we have in our armaments. What do we have to protect our country? Do we need to invoke the Defense Production Act, put in and actually produce more weaponry to help support Ukraine? All of those issues are being looked at. And I feel confident that everybody is taking this very seriously, knows what is at stake. And everybody knows what Putin is capable of. So, I don't want to talk about the threat of nuclear war because it terrifies me. But I do ask the questions. And are we ready? And I am told, you know, we get briefed. Let's just pray that it doesn't come to that. But let me say that questions are being asked as we are ensuring at a very micro level that we are doing what we must do to protect the United States of America.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. We're going to shift focus for a moment. I mentioned in the open, you co-sponsored the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act--
Debbie Dingell: I was the lead, David! It was my bill!
David Fair: Okay, very good. You were the lead on that Restoration Reauthorization Act. It would give $6 million annually for the next five years for projects to support fish and wildlife conservation and restoration in the Great Lakes Basin. What about this are you most proud of? [
Debbie Dingell: Well, look, this bill was originally passed in 1998. And it has provided federal funding for 148 research and restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes Basin. And it's had, you know, it's had projects have ranged from restoring the habitat for the endangered Kirkland Warbler, it's dealt with the grey fox, to, you know, we've gone to detecting the successful reproduction of lake trout in southern Michigan. So, I'm really proud of that. There's a lot more work we have to do. This has overwhelmingly bipartisan support, and that always makes me happy. And this is one of the areas that I just love. I love our Great Lakes. They are more than 20% of the freshwater for the world and 90% of the freshwater for the United States. And, you know, it's so important to protect them. We have so many projects. This water's so much cleaner than when I was a kid. And when I go kayaking, I go down the Rouge River, I'm in the Detroit River, and you'll see the Rouge Plant. But then you see the herrings and the painted turtles and all of the wildlife that's come back. It's really amazing. And this bill that has made that happen.
David Fair: Once again, this is one of those occasions where there is bipartisan support for the federal spending, and it's expected, should the bill reach President Biden's desk, he will sign it. But more action is needed first. Is there the same level of bipartisan support to get it passed in the Senate and in relatively quick fashion?
Debbie Dingell: I believe that there is. I think that this is an important bill. The Great Lakes touches 10 or 11 states. There are Democrats and Republicans there. And I hope that they will try to move this quickly, because there really are--I mean, the projects that we're going to take on next are things like fire season and what do we have to worry about. You know, we've seen these fires for prairie and savanna restoration, and we're going to keep looking at the fish that are in. What do we need to be doing more of to make sure that they're spawning and that we're keeping them? You know like whitefish. You know, the one of the ones that's my favorite is the blazing star Bora moth habitat restoration. There's just so much that needs to happen, like sturgeon. You know, we're getting ready for the walleye season, and that's all because of what's happened here. I invite anybody that wants to. I'm going to go walleye fishing this month--or next month, May. Our waters are really one of the most precious resource we have. And this bill has cleaned up these Great Lakes and makes this all possible.
David Fair: Well, we will look forward to the Senate vote and see where that takes us next. Thank you so much for the time today, and we'll talk again next Friday.
Debbie Dingell: I look forward to it. David. Be safe and healthy.
David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell. For the moment, she represents the 12th Congressional District, but under redrawn political maps, will run for reelection in the new sixth Congressional District. I'm David Fair. And this is 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
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