Chairmen Sandy & Carl Levin are bound by respect, likability -- and Capitol history

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By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No one will say anything bad about the Levin brothers, and surely there must be bad. For the sake of balance, a proposition:

Carl. Sandy. You are siblings. Please speak ill of each other. Have a brotherly spat. Ready, go:

"Nice try," Carl huffs. "What's the next question?"

C'mon.

"Forget it. But can I tell you something on the record?"

Yes.

"Forget it. Next question."

His elder brother, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), interjects with a story about how in 12th grade he attained the highest office at Central High School in Detroit, and how younger brother Carl made a thoughtful banner at home that said "Congrats Mr. President."

No, Congressman. That's a nice thing to say.

"When he beats the heck out of me on the squash court," Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) offers charitably, "I'm obviously not that happy."

Then again if Sandy wins two games in a row, he will throw the next game to preserve the brotherly balance of power. One could resort to superficiality, and chide Carl for his prodigious comb-over and Sandy for sounding like the dull wheeze of a humidifier, and one could also say that -- in addition to being straight-shooting, compassionate, integrity-plagued workhorses and family men -- they are boring as bean curd.

However. They are beloved, and they are powerful. The boys from Detroit, who've quarried the bedrock of Midwest progressivism, are currently in charge of the only certain things in life: death and taxes. That is, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. They are the first brothers since 1881 to serve simultaneously as chairmen, and no other siblings have served as long together in Congress. Their combined years of service (58) are bested by only one other set of brothers. The Kennedys needed three able-bodied men to amass 64.5 years, while just two Levins may surpass this number in the next three years, given their good health and margins of victory that have increased over their last four re-election campaigns.


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