GOP leader: Michigan doesn’t need COVID mandates — or to impeach Gov. Whitmer

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says he “vigorously and vehemently” disagrees with many of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to curb the coronavirus, but says lawmakers’ “energy would be better spent on other things” than impeachment. (Shutterstock)

LANSING — Michigan's new COVID-19 restrictions will unfairly punish compliant businesses and appear "misdirected,” but so does a conservative push to impeach Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging interview with Bridge Michigan, the Clarklake Republican blasted a new epidemic order that, beginning Wednesday, will close Michigan restaurant and bar dining rooms, high school and college classrooms, movie theaters and bowling alleys for at least three weeks. 

Shirkey said the GOP is not planning any immediate legislative action to fight COVID. But he called the new restrictions an attack on the “little guy,” noting that many businesses that will be closed had developed "terrific protocols" to protect customers and staff.

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Public health officials have praised the latest order from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, calling it a smart and targeted approach to fighting the surging second wave that threatens to overwhelm hospitals. 

A handful of Republican lawmakers, however, responded to Sunday’s announcement by renewing their calls for GOP leaders to begin impeachment hearings for Whitmer, a rare step they contend is warranted because the governor has “ignored court orders” and the Legislature.

Shirkey does not support an impeachment inquiry, telling Bridge it would amount to “an exercise in frictional loss.” Even if Republicans in the Michigan House were to approve articles of impeachment, Senate Republicans would not have the supermajority needed to convict. 

“I don’t think it’s got the legs necessary, and frankly, I think it's a distraction from what we should be working on now,” Shirkey said. “I understand why people feel that way. I vigorously and vehemently disagree with many of the actions our governor has taken over these last few months, but I think that our energy would be better spent on other things besides that.”

A new public service announcement from Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, urges residents to take “precautions” over the holidays as COVID-19 surges. He is joined by MidMichigan Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lydia Watson. (Screenshot)

‘We don’t need mandates’

While the GOP plans no immediate bills to fight what Shirkey called “runaway” cases,  it is posting a series of new videos on social media urging residents to be safe.

“We don’t need mandates,” he told Bridge.  “We need people to be informed, inspired and given something they can do: calls to action.”

Whether public service announcements from Michigan lawmakers will inspire residents remains to be seen. An initial video posted by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, had been shared by three Facebook followers and viewed by 80 people on YouTube in its first five hours. 

Stamas, reading from a script, suggests Michiganders should take extra "precautions" this year during the holiday season. He's joined by Dr. Lydia Watson, chief medical officer of Mid-Michigan Health, who urges residents to wash hands, social distance and wear masks. 

It’s one of roughly a dozen videos that Senate Republicans are scheduled to post on social media in coming days, according to Shirkey, who said he invited Whitmer and Senate Democrats to participate in the initiative but got no response. 

Whitmer has been busy helping develop and tout the state’s new epidemic order, which she’s calling a three-week “pause” to bend the curve.  She also released a new “mask up” public service announcement with six other Midwest governors, including Republicans Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Mike DeWine of Ohio.

Asked if Senate Republicans have a plan of their own to battle the COVID surge, Shirkey offered an axiom instead: “Leadership is less about the statements one is willing to make and more about the questions you have the courage to ask.”

Shirkey said he thinks the state should be “digging deeper” on ways to quickly establish new care and recovery centers for nursing home residents who contract the virus, “so that we can offload the non-acute patients from the hospital that are taking up bed space.”

Senate Republicans are not planning to take any legislative action on COVID-19 until December, when they return from a Thanksgiving break, Shirkey told Bridge. But if hospitals need more funding for personal protective equipment, “we will be quick to respond.”

House Republicans last month proposed legislation that would allow counties to opt out of statewide orders if local case counts fell, a plan that has not advanced amid record-breaking case numbers. 

GOP leaders have resisted Whitmer’s call for the Legislature to codify the state’s existing mask mandate. The governor argues that writing it into bipartisan legislation would send a strong signal to residents that compliance is expected. 

“They dismissed the codification of what we all recognize to be our best tool and offered nothing else in terms of actions that they might take other than doing some public service announcements,” Whitmer said Monday. “So that's why I think when I see the criticisms, it just doesn't seem particularly serious because they haven't done anything.”

Shirkey has consistently recommended mask use but has refused to support the statewide mandate. The public service announcements are an attempt to encourage compliance without the threat of criminal prosecution, he said. 

“We’ve blundered executive orders so badly that public trust in government orders is compromised, to say the least,” Shirkey said. “So instead of trying to use old habits and old methods that frankly were basically abused, we should try a different approach.”

Mounting frustrations

Michigan's GOP-led Legislature sued Whitmer in May after she locked down the state to fight the first COVID wave, and the state Supreme Court ultimately invalidated an emergency powers law she had used to issue executive orders, calling it an unconstitutional delegation of authority. 

Shirkey has criticized the administration for continuing to “go it alone” but said Tuesday he has no plans to pursue another lawsuit against Gordon, the health director who has used epidemic powers to issue COVID-19 orders of his own, with Whitmer’s blessing. 

“The governor’s orders were clearly outside of the lines,” but MDHHS appears to be “coloring right at the lines” or “maybe in some cases just outside the lines,” Shirkey said, drawing a distinction between their legal authority. 

“It does deserve a review later, after we get through these, to see if [the public health code] needs to be updated or not … but I’m not gonna get into a contest over that right now.”

One area where Shirkey and Whitmer agree: The COVID surge means Michigan families should make alternative plans for Thanksgiving. 

“Wear a mask when you leave home, especially if you’re unable to socially distance, and yes – and this is not popular – consider postponing or limiting get-togethers through this upcoming holiday season,” he said. 

GOP leaders contend Whitmer has shut them out of the state’s COVID-19 response, a narrative she disputed in a Monday call with reporters.

Republicans have been invited to “modeling calls” to examine data with Michigan Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, Bureau of Epidemiology Director Sarah Lyon-Callo and University of Michigan experts, the governor said.

“We have also made all of these experts available for one-on-one follow-up Q&A,” Whitmer added. “[Republicans] have availed themselves of many hours of time of all of these experts, and I’ve been a part of these meetings and been on conference calls.

“They’ve been very involved. They still haven’t done anything though.”

Shirkey told Bridge that “a couple senators and a couple House members” have participated in those data calls, which he called a “good” step toward information sharing that he wishes “would have started in April.”

Legislative staffers were communicating with the Whitmer administration on Friday and even Saturday, but Shirkey said they were not told of the governor’s plans until Sunday, the same day she and Gordon announced the new epidemic order. 

“There was no sharing,” Shirkey said. 

He told Bridge he is set to begin participating in weekly data calls with the Michigan Economic Recovery Council that Whitmer formed in the spring to help develop a statewide economic restart plan. 

The council is a “fantastic resource” and he’s excited to participate, Shirkey said. “It’s just a few months late.”

“The effort, the output, the content, the dialogue that's in that group has been impressive, but I don’t think it's been utilized and leveraged to deploy its maximum use because we’ve been held at bay for having access to it.”

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Comments

middle of the mit
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 7:57pm

“We don’t need mandates,” he told Bridge. “We need people to be informed, inspired and given something they can do: calls to action.”

Whether public service announcements from Michigan lawmakers will inspire residents remains to be seen. An initial video posted by Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, had been shared by three Facebook followers and viewed by 80 people on YouTube in its first five hours.
______________________________

Has anyone checked what these people are twitting on twitter? And why do dems to be present, when the only people that aren't complying are your conservative constituents? They would hate the message even worse, don't ya know? Well, you do now!

Asked if Senate Republicans have a plan of their own to battle the COVID surge, Shirkey offered an axiom instead: “Leadership is less about the statements one is willing to make and more about the questions you have the courage to ask.”
________________________________________________

What does it say about someone who doesn't have the courage to answer questions? And since when is leadership not about what the leaders say?

Shirkey said he thinks the state should be “digging deeper” on ways to quickly establish new care and recovery centers for nursing home residents who contract the virus, “so that we can offload the non-acute patients from the hospital that are taking up bed space.”
______________________

But why would we do that? WE know what to do. You just OK'ed the Guvs EO putting those people in the nursing homes.............just like you were complaining she did without your approval! And if it's no big deal, what are you worried about? All you want to do is "off load" the non acute. And why don't you have legislation in the chamber, either one, ready , willing and able to do it?

. But if hospitals need more funding for personal protective equipment, “we will be quick to respond.”
________________________

This is bi partisan ship and Publicans working with the Gov and the health care workers. Cry uncle and then we might help.

“We’ve blundered executive orders so badly that public trust in government orders is compromised, to say the least,” Shirkey said. “So instead of trying to use old habits and old methods that frankly were basically abused, we should try a different approach.”
__________________________________________________

WE are getting close to where I am going to blow you out of the water on your health mandates from the health department.

“The governor’s orders were clearly outside of the lines,” but MDHHS appears to be “coloring right at the lines” or “maybe in some cases just outside the lines,” Shirkey said, drawing a distinction between their legal authority.
____________________________

She wouldn't be going alone if she didn't have a bunch of children in adult bodies to work with ya know. OH! Wouldn't want forget this!!

https://www.lansingcitypulse.com/stories/schuette-intervenes-on-medical-...

https://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/bill-schuettes-record-as-attorney-gen...

https://greenleafnews.wordpress.com/

Schuette, in an attorney general's opinion released last year, noted that possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal under federal law, and that the Michigan Public Health Code still makes possession or cultivation illegal.
____________________________________

So let's get this straight! Cannabis is a public health risk! Covid 19 is NOT!

Legislative staffers were communicating with the Whitmer administration on Friday and even Saturday, but Shirkey said they were not told of the governor’s plans until Sunday, the same day she and Gordon announced the new epidemic order.

“There was no sharing,” Shirkey said.
_________________________________

Does anyone believe this guy anymore?

You're Full of Lies
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:37am

The legislature didn't OK ANY of Whitmer's executive orders because she didn't need them to, her illegal state of emergency shut out the Legislature from having any say in her executive orders. You should really check your facts before you post or just continue to post your blatant lies and keep making yourself look completely foolish.
Whitmer is responsible for the 2,000+ nursing home deaths because it was her orders that put sick people there. Remember the Flint water crisis where democrats wanted to crucify Snyder because he was in charge at the time? This is the EXACT same situation except this time we have undeniable proof that the Governor was responsible for all of those nursing home deaths.

middle of the mit
Tue, 11/24/2020 - 11:03pm

Thank you. That is all I want. An equal space where facts can be debated.

Even though you know the facts are weighted to MY scale......in the end...........don't ya?

It's what is in your Heart.

Bad and good can come from the heart..............it has to do with personal gain. That IS what this world IS all about.

And yet WE want to make sure the poor pay THEIR SHARE, Because they don't contribute to society at all. But those that gain from society shouldn't have to pay for courts(that rule in their favor), roads (that they push their merchandise through) or the courts again that rule in favor of them when it comes to labor! Whaaaat?

Ohhh...if I was allowed to post the words...........

Who made it that way?

And why do I have to meet them half way...........when they are still telling me they want to OWN ME? And MAKE ME CRY?

When do I get to say?............................DON'T TREAD ON ME AND OTHER AMERICANS RIGHTS?

If you have an HONEST problem? Let us deal with it. If you are pushing things in court that you aren't willing to be disbarred for? You should STOP doing those things!

And then maybe start looking towards those that are willing to move forward. I am one of those. Are you?

EB
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 9:10pm

Republicans in our legislature whine about the absence of collaboration with the governor and then don't collaborate or offer their own solutions.

Rational redistricting happens in 2021 thanks to our new Citizens Redistricting Committee. The effect for 2022 elections should be more moderates on both sides of the isle. I'm so sick of governance by radicals in our illegitimate gerrymandered legislature who don't know how to compromise and don't know how to get anything done.

Shirk, grow a pair
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 11:31pm

The governor is governing, while Shirkey is coloring like the immature irresponsible child he is.

Golden Rule
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 11:37pm

That is the lamest PSA ever and extremely late. That message should have come from the GOP at Easter. How did Stamas ever get elected? Now is the time for everyone in the state to support the governor, issue a state-wide mask mandate, and commit to not gathering for the holidays. This is a deadly virus, not a cakewalk. If you don't care about yourself or your family, think about the first-responders and their families.

Jake
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 6:47am

Mr. Shirkey, if you won't stand up to dictators, then you are as complicit with their actions as they are. You were elected to be the voice of the people, not a patsy to the Governor.

Whitmer needs to be impeached, the state Supreme Court has ruled she violated her oath of office and the states Constitution. She's now no better than any other criminal who knowingly refuses to follow the laws. It's even worse in her case as she's not only an attorney, but one of the people who writes the laws

Grow up!
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 11:31pm

You sound like those guys in jail, the ones who planned to try her.

GOP sucks
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:24am

Jake, perhaps you prefer GOP leaders in all the states with exploding (per capita) covid cases resulting from Trump rallies. BTW now all those red states are mandating masks. South Dakota, North Dakota, rural areas across the country. Now they trust the science. How quaint and convenient.

John Chastain
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:56am

Yeah sure Jake, because conservatives "believe" in resisting "tyranny" when a leader abuses their authority. That's why you were right there advocating for Trumps impeachment when he was (and continues to) abusing his authority eh? Yeah, no you weren't of course. Guess Trumps violating his oath of office and the federal constitution for his personal profit wasn't a big deal but Whitmer's alleged violations (Trumps was proved you know) while protecting the residents of the state from an ever worsening pandemic is a big deal. The only criminality here is practiced by the state GOP as it willfully exposes citizens to harm because of a extremist and dogmatic view of what constitutes "freedom".
By the way Jake, try reading the actual ruling not the conservative (& your) spin on it, the court hasn't "ruled she violated her oath of office and the states Constitution" or any such disingenuous nonsense. Repeating a lie is no different than starting one. And the republican lie machine is in full spin mode here in the comments.

Mary
Sat, 11/21/2020 - 8:28pm

The MI state Supreme Court ruled that the statue under which she was making decisions was unconstitutional. She was making decisions based on a statute that was valid at the time. Not a violation of oath of office or the constitution.

DS
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 9:31am

I wish the news would do more articles and photos of people not complying with the mask mandate. Every where I go I see people complying and wearing a mask.
Make me wonder if they are effective or is it just something to focus on doing while the virus just runs its natural course.

Anne B
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 9:57am

NOW the MI GOP wants to warn people about COVID? NOW they are trying to inform the public and try to pull the public together? A bit late, GOP. Back in early spring, all you cared about was doing everything you could against the Gov. and you were instigating people to rise up and ignore public safety warnings. You encouraged lawsuits and wasted taxpayer money in courts trying to block common-sense safety precautions and complained about every little thing. Your present 'concern' is nothing but farce and you should be ashamed of yourselves for doing NOTHING. Just like the WI GOP-controlled legislature working all the time against the WI Gov. - GOP are 'do-nothings' and could give a crap about their citizens, as we have seen all year. I live on the WI/MI border and have seen the interstate travel affect both states negatively.

Matt
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 9:57am

Representative Shirkey is keeping up his modus operandi of do nothing, propose nothing and then complain about those who come up with actual plans. Shirkey and his party had 8 years of control of Lansing and came up with no plan to for the roads. Now after 9 months of this pandemic what is his plan? Crickets. No plan, no vision, no guidance and no other plan other than to complain about a plan that is laid out, but at least he is on vacation until December.

Subee
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 11:43am

If insanity is repeating the same action over and over hoping for a different result, then Shirkey is meeting the definition of insane. Relying on the intelligence of the citizens is NOT working and that's why we are even having this conversation. He's simply using deflection hoping that we will start staring at some other object. The primary problem we have is the pandemic and we have to keep the number cases within the hospitals' ability to admit patients. I'll try to keep this real simple: If a naked man pees on my leg and I am naked, I will have a wet leg. If I am wearing pants, my leg won't get so wet so I am protected. If we are both wearing pants and we pee on each other, both of us are protected. Is the principle for mask wearing. It's really that simple. If another person can't point a gun at me and shoot, why should they be allowed to "shoot" viruses at me? We jailed people who knowingly and deliberately spread AIDS, effectively making it a weapon.

Attention Diva
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 9:39am

The Governor didn't want to participate because she wouldn't have been the center of attention and wouldn't have been able to primp and preen for the media like she's used to doing.

Ha ha!
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 10:20am

Chatfield: If voters want to try to remove the governor sooner, they can attempt a recall effort, he added.

Good luck with that, loony fringe! You just got owned by one of your own, Chatfield. GOP eating GOP. You know you're a nut when someone as extreme as Chatfield won't back you.

Elections have consequences. Don't be poor losers.

Dawn
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 6:06pm

I am 67 years old and I have aways voted for the candidates I felt most represented how I felt about any issues or policies. This year I voted only for Democrats'. I can not believe how spineless Republicans have become. And I see no sign that most of them are going to develop one anytime soon. Had Trump and his minions embraced wearing masks/social distancing from the beginning, Gov. Whitmer wouldn't have had to shut anything down. Our hospitals across the state and our healthcare workers would not be overwhelmed and we wouldn't have to miss holidays with our loved ones. Had Republicans in Michigan not played into Trump's ego trip of power, they would not have overturned her restrictions and again, things might not have escalated. Why won't Republicans admit that we had control of Covid before they stopped her orders? Now EVERYONE, even the U.P. are facing a healthcare crisis. So, putting out P.S.A.'s and recommending masks/social distancing now is just too little, too late! The ones who refused because of "personal freedom/rights" will never buy into wearing masks now, and that is on Trump and the Republican party. But, instead of complaining, I will miss Thanksgiving with my family because, I pray, I will have other Thanksgivings with them, unlike over a quarter of a million people in America who will forever have an empty place at their table.