During a recent debate at Oakland University between two Michigan Democrats, Congressman Andy Levin listed his pro-choice history and concluded: “Abortion is a human right, and abortion care is health care that every person should have access to.”
His opponent, Congresswoman Haley Stevens, took this opportunity to smile and respond with a zinger.
“Was that just the sound of another 60-something year-old white man telling me how to talk about choice?” Stevens asked. “I think my position is clear. Thank you all so much.”
It mattered little that their positions are nearly identical or that her comment was unfair and sounded scripted.
The remark let Stevens take the high road and most aggressive tone on one of the main motivational issues for Michigan Democrats in the Aug. 2 primary and the Nov. 8 midterms.
Due to redistricting and Michigan’s loss of a U.S. House seat, these incumbents face off in the redrawn 11th District, encompassing much of Oakland County.
In that the district is trending predominately blue, next month's winner will probably win the seat in November.
Levin, thought to be trailing, used social media posts this week to reaffirm not only his support for a woman’s right to choose but also to expand the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month nullified Roe v. Wade and took away the Constitutional right to abortion.
Levin supports increasing the number of justices from nine to 13.
“The Supreme Court has become a partisan political institution, doing the bidding of a right-wing faction,” Levin wrote on Facebook. “We must reform and expand the Supreme Court to restore the balance of power and integrity of the institution.”
More Seats and Term Limits
The court was packed during the previous administration by President Donald Trump and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who added three religious fundamentalists: Neil Gorsuch, Brett (Suds) Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
In a tweet, Levin noted that the three Trump appointees led the nation to believe that Roe was “settled law” that would stay settled.
“Multiple right-wing judges misled the Senate during their confirmation hearings,” Levin said. “The Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis.”
Along with the abortion ruling, the court recently ruled in favor of lessening gun restrictions, handing over more public tax money for religious and private schools and increasing pollution.
In addition to expanding the top bench by four seats, Levin said he supports term limits of 18 years for justices instead of lifetime appointments. He also urged a code of ethics for the one level of the federal judiciary that has none.
He didn’t say the words “Justice Clarence Thomas,” but the ethics proposal comes amid revelations that Thomas’ wife, Ginni, has lobbied branches of government on behalf of assorted conservative causes and that Thomas has voted at least once in favor of his wife’s allies.
A move to impeach Thomas has been suggested in Democratic circles, but would be unlikely to succeed.
Neither Stevens nor Levin responded to a request for comment for this report. In a Detroit News interview in May, Stevens expressed lukewarm support for reforming the Supreme Court. “If we can get to a place where we could see a more modern Supreme Court, I will review that legislation, as I do all bills, and sign on,” Stevens said.
Musical Chairs and – John James?
An ad that debuted this week touts Levin’s support from Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the leading liberals in Washington.
“He’s fighting the right-wing prosecutors pushing abortion bans,” says a female narrator.
Among Stevens’ supporters: Hillary Clinton.
Levin's court focus may be an effort to stress one of the small differences between two candidates who vote the same way on almost everything in the House.
Currently representing the Ninth District, which spreads into Macomb County, Levin leaves the possibility of a victory there to John James, the Republican candidate in what's now the new 10th District.
James has lost twice in U.S. Senate bids, but no Democrat has emerged yet as a strong opponent. Party voters will pick the nominee in a five-person primary.
By choosing to face a fellow Democrat, Levin created a “musical chairs” movement that leaves only one seat open for two incumbents.
Although a “red wave” election has been long predicted for November – with Democrats losing the majority in the House – the abortion decision has buoyed their hopes to hold the Senate and win races down-ballot if a backlash to the court motivates moderates, independents and liberals.
In addition, turnout could be increased in Michigan by a proposed amendment to the state constitution that will be on the ballot to guarantee abortion rights.
With incumbents Gretchen Whitmer, Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson running for governor, attorney general and secretary of state, the wave in Michigan could be blue and female -- which might favor Stevens.
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