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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Dingell's Visit
My congressional representative, John Dingell, spoke to a group of students and townspeople at the Michigan Union last night. As congresscritters go, he's one of the best, and has been in the House since 1956, longer than any other current member. He helped to create and pass Medicare in the 1960's, and was not at all happy to witness the beginning of its destruction in 2003. He was harsh in his criticism of the Republicans in the House for their shutting Democrats out of debates on key issues like Medicare. Dingell said he could accept the reduced leadership role as a member of the minority party in the House, but could not accept that the Republicans were closing the door on representation to the millions across the country, including us, who are represented by Democrats. His outlook on the wars was bleak, as was his view of the economy, given the huge deficits being run up.

I asked him if he witnessed any bribery or other shenanigans going on during the all-night House vote on the medicare, since I had read about Rep. Nick Smith's apparent allegations of attempted bribery. While Dingell said he didn't personally witness any bribery, he did say "If Nick said it, it's true." He was harsh in his criticism of the Bush administration in dragging the vote out in violation of House rules in order to overturn a clear vote (218-216) against the Medicare bill.

Dingell was asked about fuel economy, one issue on which he has disappointed me. He said, frankly, that it is a difficult topic for him to address since so much of the economy of his district is tied up in the auto industry. His main suggestion was to follow the lead of Europe by getting the sulfur out of diesel fuel. He feels that diesel is a better option than hybrids or fuel cells, and that most large European cars are now diesels. He said that switching to diesel could double fuel economy.

All in all, Dingell is an excellent congressman, and it's a shame there aren't many more like him. He voted against the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, the tax cuts, and the Medicare bill.