My breakfast with Mike Rogers
|By Kyle Melinn|
A relaxed U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers yucked it up with staffer Tony Baltimore and myself last week, as he dived into his veggie omelet at the Capital City Grille. Why wouldn’t he be at ease?
Beginning his 10th year in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rogers and his Republican Party remain the vocal minority in Washington. They’re like Statler and Waldorf, the two grouchy old men of Muppet show fame, powerless observers who throw pot shots at everything the decision-makers put in front of them.
Rogers and his Neighborhood oppose President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus, cap-and-trade and health care reform proposals. The R’s have clean hands if Obama’s schemes fail to improve the economy or do anything but dent taxpayers’ wallets, as Rogers fears.
They had nothing to do with it. They’ve said all along that "big government" and "more government spending" weren’t the answer. All Rogers can do is keep his mouth moving and help his GOP brethren win back majority this year.
As far as his own re-election efforts, Rogers isn’t losing sleep. The Democrats are too busy sweating bullets about keeping Mark Schauer in office than flushing more cash into another loser in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Lansing.
To top it all off, Rogers recently got engaged. You can’t blame a guy for sporting a giddy grin about that.
But don’t mistake Rogers easy-going manner with not caring about the impact he feels Obama’s policies will have on the United States. This isn’t about him being proved right or wrong, he said.
What are the repercussions from mainland China and Japan holding a combined 44 percent of the U.S. debt held by foreign countries? What if Obama’s first stimulus package and rumblings of a second (which Rogers put at 50/50 odds) don’t create any lasting economic recovery? Where will our grandchildren be in 50 years? Could the United States become a poor country?
Then there’s cap-and-trade. Rogers is convinced increased environmental headaches have industries shipping their plants overseas at a time when Michigan (in particular) needs every job it can get.
And then there’s this health care reform debate that Rogers claims the Republicans never got invited to the table on. Rogers said he’s genuinely scared over the watereddown compromise.
Everybody’s health insurance rates will go up because of it, he said. That’s a given. We’d all have been better off with systematic market changes to insurance affordable for everyday folks.
How about letting consumers buy their insurance from out-of-state companies, for starters? It works for auto and home insurance. And why not create a high-risk pool for the sick and elderly patients who can’t buy coverage now? Government doesn’t need to dictate mandatory insurance in order for most every American to have it, Rogers said.
All the while, folks in D.C. are aflutter about Michigan’s 2010 gubernatorial election. Can Obama afford to watch a Blue state like Michigan turn its governor’s office red in 2010? The president’s political team talked with House Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero about getting into the Democratic sweepstakes long before "unelectable" Lt. Gov. John Cherry hopped out.
A Republican is going to win in November, Rogers said. Were you expecting a different prediction? He may endorse in the Republican primary and he may not. He’s told his friend on the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, to come back with his endorsement request after the latter’s raised a bunch more money.
The answer to my next question is, "No." Rogers doesn’t regret not getting into the 2010 gubernatorial race. He said he thinks he could have won, but the timing was off. That’s all he’s willing to share on that subject.
Eventually, the discussion moves on to 2012 and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. She’s expected to vie for a third term. She unseated weak incumbent Spence Abraham to win the seat in 2000. She coasted on the Democratic wave in ’06. Will the Obama magic be there again for her?
Stabenow relies on her strong mid-Michigan roots in her statewide races. What if she ran against a mid-Michigan challenger? What if she were to run against someone like Rogers?
But that’s the furthest we get on that subject, too. The plates are clear. The check is paid. Rogers is off to another appointment. That’s 2012 we were talking about. He doesn’t need to think about tackling that challenge for another 11 months, at the earliest.
That’s a lot of stress-free days between now and then.
Cherry’s departure hurts Whitmer?
Lt. Gov. John Cherry’s decision not to seek the gubernatorial nomination could put in jeopardy local state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer’s plans to be Michigan’s next attorney general.
The Democratic Party’s attorney general nominee is determined at a closed convention with delegates traditionally supporting the "slate" of candidates determined by the labor officials and the gubernatorial pick.
Outside of Cherry and Whitmer, D-East Lansing, being close political allies, the Michigan Democratic Party has not put up in the last 36 years a governor/lieutenant governor/secretary of state/attorney general ticket that doesn’t include at least one woman and one African American. It’s also helpful if all the candidates are not from the same part of the state.
Cherry’s departure shakes up the expected dynamics.
Cherry is from union-rich Genesee County. So is one of Whitmer’s two chief inparty rivals — David Leyton, the county’s prosecutor. With Cherry out, so are arguments that the ticket is too small for two Genesee County white males.
Also, geography works against Whitmer if Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero gets the nomination. And with attorney Richard Bernstein, who happens to be blind, picking up national political consultant Jill Alper to help with his campaign, Whitmer’s road to the nomination is far from a cakewalk.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at Melinn@ lansingcitypulse.com.)