Detroit News: Who was most effective U.S. senator? Hint: He's from Michigan

Researchers have ranked U.S. Sen. Gary Peters as the "most effective" senator at lawmaking for the last Congress, citing his coalition-building with GOP colleagues.

The nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, at the top of its Senate list overall, despite his being a freshman in the minority party and engaged in a bitter reelection fight last term.

The center scores lawmakers based on metrics having to do with the number of bills they introduced and how far those bills made it through Congress.

Peters got his score by sponsoring 86 bills and getting 24 of them through a committee and onto the Senate floor. Fourteen of the bills passed the Senate, and 10 got signed into law.

The center, whose data go back to the early 1970s, said Peters' performance exceeded its previous record of seven laws passed by a minority-party senator.

The recognition comes after a tight reelection battle in which Republicans campaigned against Peters last year by claiming he was ineffective, "invisible" and "the politician known for doing nothing." Peters defeated GOP businessman John James in November 50% to 48%.

"It is surprising that Sen. Peters was able to have so many successes to his name under the polarized and partisan Congress that seeks to limit minority-party members' lawmaking success," wrote Craig Volden, a public policy and politics professor at the University of Virginia and co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking.

"One secret to his success was in coalition-building. Sen. Peters had at least one Republican co-sponsor on each of his successful bills; and it was often the case that more Republicans than Democrats signed onto his bills."

Volden noted that Peters' successful legislation also covered a "wide range" of topics from agriculture to defense to transportation to science and technology.

Volden said Peters also ranked as the most effective Democratic lawmaker in six issue areas, including government oversight, agriculture, macroeconomics, public lands and technology.

"Michiganders expect us to get things done for them — and that's always been my focus," Peters said in a statement.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio topped the center's GOP list, with 107 bills introduced, 10 of which passed the Senate, and six of which were signed into law.

Among its top lawmakers, the center also recognized the effectiveness of Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton for lawmaking in the policy area of technology.

Tim Walberg

Unlike many other House members highlighted in this category, Walberg is not a committee chair, though he serves on the House Energy & Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Walberg emphasized his work to expand access to rural broadband, boost children’s "digital safety" and train a skilled telecommunications workforce.

"In today’s connected world, technology impacts so much of our daily lives, and I am honored to receive this recognition for my leadership on such an important issue to the communities I represent in Michigan," Walberg said in a statement.

Alan Wiseman, co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, said Walberg introduced five technology-related bills and got them through the Democratic-controlled House, "making him one of the very few Republican representatives who succeeded in having a Science & Technology bill pass the House."

Lawrence named to Holocaust board

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently named U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Lawrence will take the seat previously held by the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The council was set up by Congress in 1980 to commemorate the Holocaust and to raise private money to build the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Lawrence is the founder and chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations. She will sit on the council, which meets twice a year, with Reps. Ted Deutch of Florida, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff  of Tennessee.

"I feel a special responsibility to sit on this council because of the shared history between the Jewish and Black communities," Lawrence said. "We say ‘never forget,’ and I will work with this council to make sure our country never does.

MSU prof joins Biden team

Michigan State University Professor Shawn Turner has been appointed as senior adviser for strategic engagement to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough.

Turner, a former Marine and professor of strategic communication at MSU, was sworn in this month. He previously served as deputy White House press secretary for national security, director of communications for national intelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and as a spokesman for foreign affairs for the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

At the White House and the NSC, he was the spokesdman for U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and helped develop the government’s approach to communicating intelligence reform in 2014, according to his bio.

Michigan State University's Shawn Turner is joining the Biden administration as an adviser to the secretary of veterans' affairs.

“We owe our Veterans a debt of gratitude. I don’t say that because I am a veteran, but because I appreciate the service of those who have sacrificed much more than I ever have,” Turner said in a statement.

“It feels good to know that in this role, I will be in a position to support our veterans and their families across the country.”

He said major tasks for the agency include improving suicide prevention and mental health services, reducing homelessness and boosting access to health care.

By:  Melissa Nann Burke
Source: Detroit News