Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Life And Legacy Of Senator Carl Levin Of Michigan

July 30, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passing of former Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

For the second time this week, sadly, the Senate has lost a greatly-admired former colleague. Last night, Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving senator, a Harvard-educated civil rights attorney and former taxi driver, passed away after a battle with cancer.

Over the years, many have been called “model Senators” but few have earned the title like Carl. He was no frills, hyper-focused on policy and results, and fearless in taking on entrenched powers.

When the Pentagon was profligate, you could be sure that Carl Levin was there.

When large financial institutions fleeced consumers, you could be sure Carl Levin was there.

And whenever and wherever the interests of the assembly line employee, the shift workers, or the service members were at stake, you could be sure Carl Levin was there.

He was Mister Integrity.

Like a true son of the motor city, he punched the clock at an auto assembly plant as a young man. Decades later he proudly carried his 1953 union membership card in his wallet, a silent reminder of where he came from and who he fought for.

He was certainly not a Senator out of central casting. As the tributes came pouring in from all corners of the country, the word most often you would see associated with Carl is “disheveled.” The rumpled suit, the stark-white hair, the glasses perched precariously at the end of his nose.

Well, he may have been disheveled in his appearance but there was nothing—nothing—disheveled about his mind and principles.

It reminds me of one story. I try to teach some of my caucus members some certain Yiddish words, and one of them is “schlumpfy.” It means “disheveled,” not dressed to the best.

So, when Harry Reid heard that Bernie Sanders was coming to the Senate, he got up at our caucus lunch one day and he said, “we’ll finally find somebody here in the caucus more schlumpfy than Schumer: Bernie Sanders.”

Carl Levin said, “I object to that. I am the most schlumpfy.”

He had a great sense of humor; he was just a fine man.

His intellect was fierce, a sharpened blade, designed to cut to the core of an issue, or sometimes, cut through the un-impressive answers of a witness in front of his committee. To modify a well-known expression, one of the most dangerous places in Washington was the witness chair across from Chairman Levin.

And while he was not a veteran himself, the armed forces of the United States could not count on a better friend than Carl Levin. For more than three decades, the not-so-invisible hand of Senator Levin shaped America’s defense policy. There were large and weighty issues: matters of war and peace, terrorism and national security, billion-dollar budget decisions.

But there was also the Michigan Korean War veteran, denied a veterans’ loan because his military records were destroyed in a fire. It would have been enough for Carl to set his office to the task, find the lost records, and ship them off in a manila envelope.

Instead, Carl went to visit with him in person and deliver four service medals.

He was an example that inspired; and one to aspire to. Because of who he was and what he accomplished, the Senate, the State of Michigan, these entire United States, and our globe, our world are better off thanks to Mr. Carl Levin. 

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