LANSING, MI – The Michigan Senate blocked another five of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointees Wednesday in an ongoing protest of her COVID-19 restrictions.
That’s at least the general rationale from Senate Republicans. There is no specific order Whitmer could rescind that would satisfy GOP lawmakers, according to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s office.
“The Majority Leader has not identified any specific compromise or goal,” said Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann to MLive.
The Senate voted 20-14 along party lines to reject an appointment to the state Board of Cosmetology and four trustee spots on the boards of three state universities. Those appointments were:
- Andrea Dickson to the Michigan Technological University Board of Trustees
- Jason Morgan to the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees
- Mikyia Aaron and Noreen Myers to the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees
- Gabriella Abel to the Board of Cosmetology
It was the second time in a week that the Republican majority rejected routine appointments by the governor. During a Jan. 27 session, the Senate blocked 13 appointments, including including Children’s Ombudsman appointee Suzanna Shkreli.
Read more: Michigan Senate rejects 13 Whitmer appointments in show of disapproval over coronavirus response
Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on Jan. 28 characterized the denials as “political gestures” pressing Whitmer to generally stop “acting unilaterally” on her COVID-19 restrictions.
“Yesterday’s action on appointments was a purposeful political gesture,” Shirkey said. “Not a gesture to score points, but a gesture to make a point. Until this governor stops acting unilaterally and invests in and encourages and invites in the Legislature to be a part of some of these decisions, not all of them, then we’re relegated to using the tools given to us in our Constitution and our statutes.”
Read more: Michigan Republican leaders will continue ‘political gestures’ to lift COVID-19 restrictions
Messages were left with multiple Republican senators asking what COVID-19 order needs to be lifted to stop the blocking of appointments.
During Wednesday’s session, Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said Whitmer has “emasculated” the Legislature with her veto power. He proposed Whitmer relinquish some of her executive authority, hinting at attempts by the Legislature to limit Michigan Department of Health and Human Service orders to a maximum of 28 days. Whitmer vetoed legislation to that effect Dec. 30.
“After 11 months of rejecting the qualified voices of our citizens, these same voices demand some effort to rebalance the scales,” he said. “But the actual authority we have to do anything in a world where the executive has nearly all the avenues is very small. She can move money to nearly any place in the state government she wants without us. She can suspend what people wear, where they go, what they buy, where they can work, when they can work, where they can eat. She even strove to limit who we could have in our own homes… and all this is done without any debate.”
McBroom was referring to Whitmer’s previous executive orders, and emergency orders now issued by MDHHS, mandating masks indoors and limiting public gatherings by shutting down various business activities over the last year. Nearly all industries are now open in Michigan after Whitmer reopened indoor dining on Feb. 1, but with restrictions including 25% capacity limits and a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants.
Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, echoed previous arguments about reopening high school sports. He has been an active supporter of the “Let Them Play” movement.
“Other states have seen the data and with it, they have made the responsible choices that allowed their kids to play and still keep them safe,” he said. “Yes, other states have made responsible decisions, but for some reason, Michigan stands alone in its remorseless lockdown of sports.”
The appointment blocking drew ire from a number of Senate Democrats. Notably, Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, said his Republican colleagues are worse than “hostage takers,” since hostage takers “have the decency to give a list of demands.”
“Is this all a fight to make sure water parks and strip clubs are open in the state,” he said. “Is it about us adopting your plan to protect the public? Well, that can’t be, because quite frankly the plan doesn’t exist. If you’re willing to put on the table what you are for, and not what you’re against, then maybe that would be a reasonable thing.”
Elizabeth Hertel, who is married to the senator, is Whitmer’s appointment to direct MDHHS after she served as the senior chief deputy director for administration in the department.
The Senate will vote on her appointment by Feb. 25. Before then, more college board appointments will see votes next week.
Read more from MLive:
House Republican plan for federal coronavirus response money clears committee
Democrats introduce Whitmer’s $5.6 billion pandemic spending plan in House
Read Whitmer’s $5.6B plan to fund coronavirus recovery for Michigan schools, economy
House Republicans unveil $3.5B COVID-19 plan to counter Whitmer proposal
Michigan Republican leaders will continue ‘political gestures’ to lift COVID-19 restrictions
Whitmer calls for bipartisan COVID-19, economic progress in State of the State address