Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving (1978-2014) U.S. senator, died Thursday night at age 87.
President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer immediately began the mourning of Levin and recalled the Detroit man as a fighter for civil rights and principled liberal Democrat.
What they and other liberal Democrats barely mentioned — if at all — was that Carl Levin was also a defender of the filibuster and would never join with Schumer and Biden to end the means by which the minority viewpoint in the Senate makes an impact and a difference.
''Carl Levin was a very liberal senator who also was a very honorable man,'' Michigan’s former three-term Gov. John Engler, a conservative Republican, told Newsmax. ''He cared about his constituents and he cared about the institution of the Senate. His defense of the filibuster was consistent with his belief that traditions and civility are still important even in this time of great political upheaval and hostility. ''
In his memoir entitled ''Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 Years in the Senate'' (which was published in May), Levin recalled how he came to the Senate divided on the filibuster — embracing it because of the scene in the epic film ''Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'' in which a heroic senator uses it to stop a nefarious scheme by a corrupt colleague, and looking at it skeptically because it was so frequently used by southern senators to thwart civil rights legislation.
Levin’s decision to fight for the filibuster, he wrote, was his feeling that it provided for the rights of a minority opinion in the Senate.
''The reason that [the Senate] has the ability to be a truly deliberative body is that unlike the House of Representatives, its rules provide significant rights to the minority party members,'' according to Levin. ''Central to those minority rights is the right to speak and to offer amendments until 60 senators vote to end debate.''
Levin was one of three Democratic senators to oppose the so-called ''nuclear option'' of then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nevada, which in 2013 ended the filibuster as a tool in consideration of nominations for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Fearing for what ''what it would lead to down the road,'' Levin noted, ''[It] wasn’t long before President Trump was able to get two Supreme Court justices confirmed by a Republican Senate with less than 60 votes when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expanded the nuclear option to cover Supreme Court nominees.''
''The 'nuclear option' did more than partially destroy a Senate rule,'' concluded the Michigan lawmaker. ''It has significantly weakened the Senate as an institution and has contributed to hyper partisanship, divisiveness, and the lessening of civility."
He warned that ''it could get worse. If the majority chooses, it could apply the nuclear option precedent to legislation where there would be no minority right to debate or offer amendments.''
That is what Levin’s former Democratic colleagues are now considering.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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