Senate Republicans vote to sue Whitmer in COVID-19 relief fund battle

By: - March 11, 2021 3:26 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives her third State of the State address, Jan. 27, 2021 | Whitmer office photo

Republicans in the Senate authorized a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday after she vetoed a bill within the COVID-19 relief supplemental package that would have shuttered some of her administration’s executive powers during the pandemic. 

The Legislature passed the package last week spending some of the $5.6 billion in federal aid that former President Donald Trump signed in December. On Tuesday, Whitmer signed $2.5 billion of supplemental funding and vetoed $840 million in K-12 funding that is tie-barred to a bill that would have stripped the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of its power to shut down schools. 

Whitmer and Budget Director David Massaron requested that Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland) and House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) meet by the end of day Friday to begin negotiations. 

On Wednesday, Albert wrote a letter to Massaron indicating that the Whitmer administration must agree to “negotiate” COVID orders if it wants to negotiate further on federal relief dollars.

“I am willing to meet and negotiate the allocation of funds as soon as the administration agrees to meet with the Legislature to negotiate its epidemic orders,” Albert wrote.

He also falsely declared in a floor speech that Whitmer “has literally locked people in their homes.”

In the upper chamber, Stamas introduced Senate Resolution 26 authorizing Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) to file a lawsuit against the governor. 

The resolution states that “members of the Michigan Senate must defend the Legislature’s role to appropriate moneys and as a co-equal branch of government in Michigan’s constitutional system.”

The resolution was approved by the Senate with a 20-14 vote.

Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown did not respond to a request to comment regarding the potential lawsuit or whether or not there has been an agreement from Republican leaders to meet for negotiations.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) proposed an amendment to the resolution to limit legal costs to $10,000, but the amendment failed. 

Ananich said the potential lawsuit is a “waste of taxpayer dollars” and said this action is because Republicans are “unwilling to negotiate with the governor.”

The GOP-led Legislature has turned to the courts before in order to strip the governor of her executive powers during the pandemic.

The Legislature last year sued Whitmer for her use of the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act to issue pandemic orders. The GOP-majority Michigan Supreme Court ruled in its favor in October by overturning the 1945 law.

DHHS has since been issuing many of the same epidemic orders. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.