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Former US Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan's longest-serving senator, dies at 87

Melissa Nann Burke, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Carl Levin, the longest-serving U.S. senator in Michigan history and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has died at age 87.

The death was announced late Thursday by his namesake, the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School, where he was chairman and a distinguished legislator in residence.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but Levin had been receiving treatment for lung cancer.

Levin, Michigan's first Jewish senator, served 36 years in the upper chamber starting in 1979 as a supporter of Detroit's automakers, defender of the Great Lakes, and a champion of tax fairness and ethics reform.

Never tainted by scandal, the Detroit Democrat was called "Mr. Integrity" by now-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., when he retired in 2015.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Halpern-Levin, three daughters and six grandchildren.

 

As a member and longtime chairman of the high-profile Armed Service Committee, Levin earned a reputation for targeting Defense Department waste and cost overruns, while advocating for Michigan's military families and bases.

As chairman, he ordered the 2007-08 investigation by the committee into the abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody that found officials at the top of the Bush administration bore blame for the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Levin also chaired the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the premiere investigative body in Congress, where his team's probes — burnished by original research — probed offshore tax havens, money laundering, abusive credit card practices and multinational corporations gaming the tax system.

"One of the adages is PSI goes after lions, not fleas," said Elise Bean, who worked for Levin on three subcommittees including as staff director and chief counsel of PSI.

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