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Q&A: Rep. Mike Levin talks about the next Congress

U.S. Rep. Mike Leving, D-49, speaks at a campaign rally at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, California on Nov. 3, 2022. President Biden joined Levin to help boost the incumbent past Republican challenger Brian Maryott in a tight race in California's 49th Congressional District.
Alexander Nguyen
U.S. Rep. Mike Leving, D-49, speaks at a campaign rally at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, California on Nov. 3, 2022. President Biden joined Levin to help boost the incumbent past Republican challenger Brian Maryott in a tight race in California's 49th Congressional District.

San Diego's 49th Congressional District was one of the most closely watched contests in the 2022 midterm election. But while redistricting narrowed the gap between registered Democrats and Republicans in the district, incumbent Congressman Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, secured his third term. The Associated Press called the race for Levin a full week after Election Day. The election will be certified by Dec. 8.

As control of the House of Representatives shifts to the Republican Party, Levin said he'll work with "friends" across the aisle to craft bipartisan legislation. Levin joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about the next Congress. The conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity.

First of all, congressman, I want to congratulate you on your reelection. But before we go on, I want to hear your response as the nation is reeling from yet another shocking mass shooting, this time at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub. There are a number of San Diego ties to the shooting, I'm wondering what your thoughts are in the wake of this tragedy?


Levin: Well, first, I'm thinking of and praying for the families of the victims and everyone who was impacted at the club. And obviously, our gratitude is with those heroes, including the one I know has San Diego ties, who made sure that the casualties weren't even worse. But a couple of things immediately came to mind. One is the toxic nature of so much campaign rhetoric, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that really has no place in the year 2022. And I'm hopeful that Congress can actually move forward and take the legislative steps necessary to protect same-sex marriage. And I hope that we can all collectively turn the temperature down on this sort of rhetoric. The second thing that immediately came to mind, of course, is the need to have comprehensive gun safety legislation. We had the bipartisan Safer Communities Act that I was very proud we passed in the House and Senate, signed in a law by the President. The most comprehensive gun safety legislation in over three decades. But more action needs to be taken. By what I have seen and read, the shooter had an AR-15 assault weapon, and it's my belief that we have to do all we can to get these weapons of war out of our communities.

My great hope is that we can move forward on gun violence prevention legislation knowing full well it won't be easy with a Republican House, because, unfortunately, far too many of my friends and colleagues across the aisle seem to care far more about what the NRA thinks than about what their constituents think when it comes to gun safety.

You'll be working with a GOP controlled House. Do you think it will be a challenge to create policy this term, or do you see it as a chance to work across the aisle?

Levin: Well, I think it'll be some of both. I do think that we'll have to see — first of all — whether Rep. Kevin McCarthy does in fact become speaker of the House. And then with the slim margin that he has, which looks like it's around seven or eight, what will he be able to do? And my expectation is that there will be a lot of my friends across the aisle — and I mean friends sincerely, that I work with on a variety of issues — that will want to craft bipartisan legislation, that will want to see not just investigations, but legislation. And first, there will be others in the Republican Conference that are totally focused on partisan investigations. So, I'm going to seek out those who want to work with me. I want to work with other Democrats on common-sense legislation, whether it be, as we discussed, for our veterans and military families or for our environment. I know we can achieve bipartisan progress. I know we can get big things done when we work together. And I know, based on the campaign that we just ran and the feedback that I received from scores of our constituents, that that is exactly what they expect and what they want to see is bipartisan progress for our local issues. And that's what we're going to deliver.

Green energy has been a major focus during your tenure in Washington. How do you hope to make an impact on that?


Levin: Well, I have been really excited that we've made great progress with the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Those are two historic pieces of legislation that are going to dramatically improve the sustainable path that we need to be on if we're going to hit our greenhouse gas production targets to curb the worst of climate change. And I'm really encouraged by the estimates that the Inflation Reduction Act is said to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030. That to me, means we have a long way to go. We have the other 60% that we now need to focus on. It won't be easy with Republicans in the majority in the House, but my focus is going to ensure that legislation we have passed is deployed. ... One huge project that I've been focused on is the rail corridor connecting San Diego and Los Angeles. It's the second busiest inner city passenger rail corridor in the US. And as we know all too well, parts of it are at risk of failing. And Mother Nature always wins. Bluffs are collapsing — beaches are eroding. And we had Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg out, we had the President out, and he referred to the rail corridor as a priority as well. And we're just going to follow through as aggressively and persistently to ensure those federal funds come to our region.

We're seeing high inflation and an overall economic downturn. What do you identify as the primary cause of those issues and what do you see as a solution to the problems?

Levin: Well, I have said for a long time that Russian President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine, the global pandemic, and then of course, price gouging by certain companies — specifically I've pointed to big oil and the profits that they've made, and some of what they've done specifically in California — those are all factors. But make no mistake, regardless of what the factors are, I am absolutely committed to doing all we can to lower costs and working with my friends across the aisle to whatever extent we can. Where I worry is that during the campaign, I heard a lot from my Republican friends about inflation, but I didn't hear much of actual plans from them other than tax cuts for rich people. And that seems to be their plan for everything, regardless if the economy is good, or the economy is bad, or inflation is high or inflation is low. They want tax cuts for rich people. And that simply hasn't worked in the past and won't work in the future.

What we need to do is invest in people again, invest in the middle class, ensure that people can make ends meet. And those are the policies that I'm committed to. And we'll continue to reduce health care costs as we have and focus on things like prescription drugs, making sure that reform isn't blocked, and all the other things that we did in the Inflation Reduction Act that Republicans have; making sure Medicare and Social Security are there for the long run rather than being used as a bargaining chip. If the Republicans are threatening the debt ceiling, it's going to be a challenge. But I know that there are many of my colleagues and friends across the aisle that want to work together and I'll be seeking them out every step of the way.

You essentially mentioned corporate greed as one of the causes of this inflation. How do you reel that in?

Levin: Well, I think one thing that needs to happen is a campaign finance reform. I looked at just my election and there were, I think, around $8 million of negative attack ads that ran against me from something called the Congressional Leadership Fund. And if you dig into who funds that, a lot of it is big oil, it's the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, Chevron, Exxon. And really they have this unlimited capacity to be able to send super PAC (Political Action Committee) money to fund attack ads.

I've thought all along that we need to fundamentally reform the campaign finance system, increase transparency, accountability, and get the dark money out. And I'm one of about 50 or so members that doesn't take corporate PAC money, which tells you that we really have a long way to go to reduce the influence of that corporate special interest money in Washington D.C.. But I'll never give up that fight. And it's one that I hope, I hope some of my Republican friends eventually will come around to agreeing on.

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  • Congressman Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, secured a third term representing San Diego’s 49th District. He joins us to talk about bipartisianship and the next Congress. Then, if you’ve been to the San Diego International Airport lately, you may have noticed it’s very much under construction. We have tips and advice for holiday travelers.