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Politics & Government

GOP-backed bills sent to Whitmer in newest COVID showdown

The Michigan State Capitol.
Steve Carmody
/
Michigan Radio

The Republican-led Legislature voted Wednesday to send Governor Gretchen Whitmer a new round of COVID-19 response bills that are very similar to versions she’s already vetoed.

This is the latest episode in the ongoing the back-and-forth between Republicans and the Democratic governor over her use of emergency powers – and her ability to use them again in the future.

Republicans say the governor’s abused her authority and slowed the recovery from COVID. 

Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said Whitmer and her cabinet need to step back from the administration’s use of unilateral powers… “and have a discussion, a debate, on this pandemic, on our budget and our policy and make a decision together. I’m ready to sit at the table. Let’s go.”

But Democrats say it’s Republicans who won’t bargain without first setting conditions. They say the GOP demands would make it impossible for the governor to respond to the evolving health crisis.

Senator Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said Republicans are using COVID-19 funds as a bargaining point in a political fight.

“I request, I demand, that we get in a room, sit down, negotiate, and solve these problems,” he shouted during the Senate debate. “The people of Michigan deserve that!”

Hertel is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He is also married to Elizabeth Hertel. She is Whitmer’s director of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The next step is for the bills to go to Whitmer’s desk, and she will again have to decide whether to sign or veto. There is no immediate word on how she will respond, but Press Secretary Bobby Leddy released a statement that read in part:

“When the Republican Legislature is done playing political games, we are confident that we can negotiate a bipartisan bill that supports small businesses, schools, families, and communities across the state. We can’t afford to wait.”