Michigan Republicans launch attack on Gov. Whitmer’s emergency powers

Michigan Republican lawmakers say they will create an oversight panel to examine Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of a statewide economic lockdown during the coronavirus crisis. Conservatives have grown increasingly critical of the governor for not considering small ways to begin reopening parts of the state’s economy.

April 24 update: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expected to extend stay-home order until May 15

Republican leaders are calling legislators back to the Michigan Capitol on Friday to assert their role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic with additional oversight and an attempt to limit Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency authority. 

The House and Senate will meet to form a “special oversight committee” on the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, announced Thursday on Twitter. 

Senate Republicans also plan to vote for the repeal of a 1945 law that Whitmer contends gives her authority to continue emergency actions beyond May 1 without legislative approval, a symbolic act given the governor’s ability to veto the measure. 

“Michigan needs to handle this pandemic seriously yet properly. It’s what the people deserve, and we will see that it happens,” Chatfield wrote on Twitter

The announcements come days before the end of Whitmer’s extended stay-at-home order, which has inflamed frustrations among the GOP and conservative groups who say they are concerned it’s too restrictive. Republican leaders also face pressure from within their own caucuses to take more aggressive steps against the governor. 

Whitmer said Wednesday she intends to extend her order past the end of April while beginning to reopen the Michigan economy in phases, arguing that reopening businesses too early could lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases that could overwhelm hospitals. 

Tiffany Brown, spokesperson for the governor, condemned the Legislature's moves as “dangerous partisan games. 

"Governor Whitmer will remain focused on taking actions to save lives and mitigate the spread of the virus during these unprecedented times," she said, adding that Whitmer "will not sign a bill that would diminish her ability to protect citizens of this state from a deadly disease that has already killed thousands of people in Michigan."

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Chatfield, told Bridge the panel would be similar to a joint committee formed in 2016 to examine government actions related to the Flint water crisis while Republican Gov. Rick Snyder was in office. That committee listened to more than 60 witnesses over 18 hours of testimony and released a report urging policy changes they argued would help Flint residents and prevent future catastrophes.

“They’re not being created to look into any particular issue,” D’Assandro said. They’ll “start looking into the state’s response given whatever kind of leads they get and go wherever that evidence takes them.”

The committee would have the power to issue subpoenas for government records and testimony from state officials, but they don’t intend to force “private-side citizens” to testify.

A majority of House members will be in Lansing to enact the resolution, D’Assandro said, and they plan to take health screening procedures to reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19, similar to the last time the Legislature met in early April. The House will not consider any other legislation while they’re in town. 

Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, said the Senate plans to approve the House resolution and will also limit the number of people allowed on the chamber floor.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, said the session was "planned under the cover of night" without input from Democrats and that the resolution would forward "a false narrative of distrust in our governor’s response that will ultimately cost more lives." Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, also said in a statement that the move is a “stunt” that should be saved for “a time when Michiganders’ lives aren’t on the line.”

“The only reason we should be in session is to approve the governor’s order to make safe changes for Michigan,” he said. “Our residents are fighting for their lives. They’re looking for leadership and certainty, not politics.”

Republicans outnumber Democrats 22 to 16 in the state Senate, and 58 to 52 in the state House.

Partisan tensions have been rising in recent weeks over Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite early support for her executive orders, Republicans have criticized the administration for what they say are sweeping restrictions that are needlessly devastating the economy. 

Whitmer initially announced a stay-at-home order in late March, but expanded it on April 9 to include additional restrictions on large retail stores, travel and some recreation. 

Conservative groups expressed frustration with the order’s ban on motorized boating, professional lawn care services and other restrictions they argued were unnecessary to protect public health. Thousands came to Lansing last week to protest the restrictions, becoming one of the first in a nationwide wave of demonstrations against state stay-at-home measures. 

Republican leaders have promoted their own plans to reopen businesses more quickly in areas with fewer confirmed cases, and GOP legislators have introduced bills to repeal a 1945-era law that allows Whitmer emergency powers without legislative approval, though she would likely veto the legislation even if it were to pass.

Thousands of protesters gathered at the Michigan Capitol last week, some in cars and others on the lawn, in defiance of Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.  

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican who last week introduced a three-phase plan to begin reopening the economy, said Thursday he stands with protesters but discouraged a planned demonstration outside the official governor’s residence in Lansing, where Whitmer lives. 

“There is need now to express our opinions, concerns, and frankly, demands,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “But there is no need, and never should be, to threaten government leaders to the point of putting their lives at risk. No need. No space.”

But some Republican lawmakers want to relax economic restrictions even faster than their caucus leaders: Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, told Bridge Magazine Thursday that the plan released by Shirkey last week is “not my plan.”

“Ultimately we have to legislatively look at what is the appropriate way to go about this, but I’m much more on the side of giving people the freedom to make their own decisions,” said Barrett, lead sponsor on a bill to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945. 

We should all be very concerned that any person ... is seeking to have unilateral control of state government for any period of time longer than is absolutely necessary to deal with a threat we’re facing,” he said.

Republicans have also cried foul over a contract the Whitmer administration awarded and then quickly rescinded that would have paid a firm owned by a Democratic consultant up to $194,250 to oversee a volunteer contact tracing program designed to help track the spread of the novel coronavirus through Michigan. 

State and national GOP leaders blasted the no-bid contract with Great Lakes Community Engagement, a Grand Rapids firm owned by Mike Kolehouse that was going to use virtual phone bank software developed by EveryAction, a subsidiary of Democratic campaign group NGP Van. 

Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox questioned whether patient data collected by the firm could be “utilized for partisan ends” and called that possibility “deeply troubling.”

The 17-page contract, signed Monday but canceled Tuesday and provided to Bridge Magazine, would have required GLCE to comply with medical record privacy laws and included an additional three pages of privacy requirements, including limitations on staff access to both electronic and physical data.  

Whitmer’s office said the contract was approved by the Michigan Department of Health and Communication but should have gone through the State Emergency Operations Center, which is overseeing contracts during the public health crisis. 

"The Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t have a political bone in their theoretical body," Whitmer said Wednesday in a public briefing. "When it was brought to my attention, I told them to cancel it. This was an unnecessary distraction. Leadership is about solving problems. The correct process was not followed.”

House Appropriations Chairman Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, said Tuesday he is concerned about a partisan firm collecting “personal and sensitive information about Michigan citizens” and called for additional contract oversight.

“I can’t believe this is the only instance where this administration has made questionable decisions about awarding contracts that may be political in nature during this time of unprecedented executive power,” Hernandez said in a statement. “The people of Michigan, as well as their elected representatives, have so far been left in the dark about how our governor is making these decisions and that must come to an end.”


Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Erwin Haas
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 2:06pm

I thought that the lede would be on on our governor's assigning a 200,000USD sweetheart contract to one of her campaign donors and her campaign manager's company, one that allowed the democrat party access to all of the information on Michigan's residents.
Mlive has already partially recast the story as an administrative mistake. I thought that Bridgmi would seize the glory of bearing the flag at the head of the parade. But, Alas! no interest in a story that will eventually cripple the lady's administration.
Or maybe the hope that this will blow over, if only "We ignore it long enough."
And they wonder why Grand Rapids urchins gossip about the jejune press and "fact checkers."

Rick Raisen
Thu, 04/23/2020 - 4:35pm

After getting caught, she canceled it as an "unnecessary distraction". Not because she thinks she did anything wrong, but because it was making her look bad. I wonder how many other contracts are being given to Democrat donors? I was just reading that story in the Detroit News about the guy making millions of testing swabs, but the state is refusing to buy them while the Governor goes on national news outlets and complains about not having swabs- I wonder who is going to get that contract and how much they had to kick back to the Governor. She got caught once and admitted no wrong- let's look closer and see what kind of other foul corruption we see in this extreme partisan administration.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 7:07pm

Your representation of what actually occurred is distorted and a cheep attempt at unwarranted slander.

Erwin Haas
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 8:16am

Obviously, I don't read Bridgmi and certainly not this article; I screen the website occasionally and was surprised that a major story was ignored, so I dumped.
I see that the organization is looking for money. The publisher of M live appeared last week asking for folks to subscribe; these organizations and the "writers" are evidently greedy for the money generated by productive individuals in the free market but want to continue to profess the truths that they learned in PS 23 or a cheap college somewhere on equality and their party politics, fostering policies which strangle the source of the abundance that they want to redirect to their own gods.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:34pm

When it's found out that there is corruption in the GOP, the culprits get PROMOTED. That's the difference.

Bob Dunn
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 9:21am

I agree. Obviously republicans forgot about all the sweetheart deals Snyder made. You supported him just like you do trump: blindly. I wish politicians would spend their energy on constructive ways to solve the problems.

Red Herrings
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:32pm

Don't feed the nasty trolls. They'll get big and fat like Trump. Remember the Emperor with No Clothes? Trump got his doctor to say he's not obese. LOL Everyone plays along, but everyone knows the truth. Just holding our breath until November. It can't come fast enough.

Margaret R BENNETT
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 8:28am

This comment does NOT make much sense to me. It needs to be better organized. I'm a professional writer who expects writings that are posted for the ''public' to read to be properly written.
What I get from the above comment is that some of the Republicans in this state are complaining about Governor Whitmer's work in
managing the state as well as she can to reduce deaths from the Civid-19 crisis.
Many Americans approve of Governor Whitmer's work. She has even been invited to be a running mate for a presidential candidate.
If the Republicans in our State Legislature have ideas to contribute, they should send them to the Governor. [Some of us would appreciate hearing the Republicans 'constructive' ideas--if they have any?]
It's my understanding that Governor Whitmer is reviewing Republican ideas; and, will incorporate any that seem useful.
Personally, I'm tired of hearing ongoing complaints about the governor's work. Some of these 'complainers' could find something more useful to do with their time.

Happy Dance
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:38pm

Thanks, Marge!

Ruby Susan
Tue, 04/28/2020 - 10:18pm

So you think that anyone has anything to 'contribute', they should run it by the dictator, and if the dictator approves of it then it can be enacted? We live in America, Margaret, not Russia or China. Laws are made by the legislature, voted on by elected officials- they are not made by the Executive. The Executive executes the rules, regulations, policies, and regulations that are established by the Legislature. The best policies are bipartisan, with input from both Republicans and Democrats, and are enacted by large majorities. Oversight of the executive branch is healthy and reasonable and encouraged. And all policies- Republican or Democrat- should have a healthy appreciation for the civil liberties guaranteed in both the national and state Constitution.

You understand power and partisanship and politics, yes, but you seem to be lacking a solid appreciation for liberty, freedom, and civil liberties. People often get tired of fighting for and protecting freedom, and want to just give in to dictators and tyrants- history is littered with examples of dictators who took power during a 'crisis' and refused to let go of that power and people didn't just want to fight it. I hope you are indeed just a Russian troll and not in fact a voter here- Michigan and America would be better off.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 4:23pm

I agree that limits on Gretchen’s powers needs to be reviewed. She has overstepped her authority without regard for all Michiganders. I voted for her and do another agree with the way she has handled this crisis.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 6:44pm

This Governor has jeopardized a lot, like state workers pensions, where is the money going to come from for them. It doesn't sound like there is going to be free fed money to states to bail out their pensions, nor should there be because other tax payers should not be on the hook for these unsustainable promises that were made. And what about the damage and death brought to the public by ending their work and businesses. And when you arbitrarily put your tax base out of work without any real scientific proof that these lock-ups and home detentions really worked where is your tax base that can help put the pieces back together. Oh yeah, they have been put out of work for over a month and most small business owners haven't received a cent. And unemployment monies are not the strength of an economy.

Is it that virus is just running it's course and we are beginning to stabilize and coming out of it like Sweden who did not do this to their citizens. O'well things are broken and damage and everyday the judgement used to fix these things are only making things worse. Maybe this really is the day of reckoning, I reck'in

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:36pm

Sweden is taking the course the UK took, before realizing it was a dumb idea. Stay tuned.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 7:10pm

The GOP continues to invent and exploit this crisis to advance ideological goals. So while Washington continues to mishandle and citizens die, they show what their allegiance is, to regain power lost at any cost regardless of how immoral. It's plainly divisive.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 7:41pm

"Man is by nature a political animal."- Aristotle

Don't you all love Governor Halfwhit? She says that a bunch of government bureaucrats who donate overwhelmingly to the Democratic party and are currently headed up by her "doesn’t have a political bone in their theoretical body." These bureaucrats know that even if the whole economy in Michigan is tanked by Governor Karen, she's going to keep collecting taxes to pay these people, most of whom will not suffer lost or reduced paychecks. And they'll reward her (as they have consistently done) by voting the party line up and down the ticket in the next election.

The head of the MDHHS is former Obama appointee Robert Gordon, whose resume did not include direct experience in public health prior to his appointment, but whose resume did include lots of Democratic love with connections to Barack Obama, John Kerry and John Edwards,

And then she pretends this is all "non-partisan" and not political and so cannot be questioned- wake up Michigan! Your Governor is an extreme, partisan, authoritarian, and incompetent.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 8:37pm

They need to shut her down. This executive order is way out of line and she is out of control.

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 10:12pm

Powers? What powers? I've been ignoring that tyrannical wench since day one.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 8:27am

What are you a pirate?

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 8:12am

Of course the Legislature should have oversight powers over the Governor. With a smirk on her face and slurred stuttering words coming out of her mouth, Nancy Pelosi has been saying that for the last 3 years. And the Michigan government structure mirrors the federal structure.

Paul J Pantaleo
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 8:50am

there are 3 branches of government. She did her mandates and now to extend them she should consult and LISTEN to others. Both in congress and the business or real world.
While I don't disagree entirely there need to be some common sense involved and that is lacking at this time.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 9:02am

So happy that our elected representatives are allowing political tribalism to muddy the waters. We are Michiganders. Let's forget politcal ties and do what is right for our state to recover, prepare and prosper.

Steven Martin
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 9:57am

For the Republicans to politicize the issue of virus protection is totally unacceptable. Where is the outrage toward some in the business community that encourage violation of the health concerns so they can make money. It’s morally irresponsible. The Republican legislators seem in lock step with the DeVos and company campaign contributors who learned their political tactics at Koch conferences, and who control what happens in the Muchigan Republican Party. Where are the republicans who value health more than padding their own pockets. They better hope the virus does not spread to their mostly rural communities. A second wave is very possible and most likely probable. Look to medical science not rich business interests in making decisions regarding opening the state. Where’s the testing? Where’s the outrage over the incompetence in the White House? Where’s the concern for the poor and working people who are on the front lines in getting us through this? Where’s the concern for the future preparedness?
Thank goodness we have real leadership in Lansing exemplified by our governor. It’s lacking in our gerrymandered legislature

Eddie Murphy
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 10:22am

Steve, you're more partisan and political than most. Perhaps that's why you see it in everyone but yourself? You and your supporters are heavily backing political policies enacted by a partisan Governor (she is a Democrat which is a political party). They are being opposed by "businesses"- businesses that are both Republican an Democrat, that have workers in them who are of every political party and none, and who do not run candidates in elections (hence they are non-partisan). Your post shows extreme partisanship. You're being opposed by non-partisan forces. And since you're angry, confused, self-righteous, scared, upset, and self-invested in the decisions, you'll never change. It's a sad situation, watching you post on here. I feel bad for you, Steve. I hope some day you get the help and support you need to become a better person.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 10:02am

Most people have never owned a business let alone run one. One of the first lessons learned to be successful is NUMBERS DON'T LIE!!! If the#are down in this scenario yes we need to move forward, but there is an increase where is the rational on this thinking? Maybe a little co-operation all polititions and popcitizens do the responsible thing. We will all benefit, thanks to all first responders on the front lines, and to all who are in mourning for a lost loved one sincerest sympathy's.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 11:50am

2014: Rick Snyder. During the negotiations over road funding at the end of the last legislative session, our illustrious governor was MIA, choosing instead to head to New York City to consult with bond ratings agencies. His lack of leadership on the home front resulted in his Republican colleagues – who have a majority in the House and a super-majority in the Senate – doing nothing whatsoever about road funding. In typical fashion the Republican's are now leading a divisive attack at a time when cooperation is needed. The previous example is only one of many, just a remainder that while they previously held the majority, nothing got done.

No to GOP
Fri, 04/24/2020 - 2:28pm

They've got to pretend they are doing something, right?

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 3:22pm

I've read the article and all the posted comments. I am stunned by how little people know or care about our Constitutional rights including Gov Whitmer that lady from Michigan I voted for. Right to counsel?--those pesky attorneys are not "critical." Rights of Assembly?--nope, Gov. Whitmer can wipe those out for as long as she wants with a stroke of a pen. We are all under house arrest, presumed guilty/infected without a shred of due process let alone probable cause. She even purports to place upon me the burden of enforcing her unconstitutional orders on others in my household. Gov Whitmer's unconstitutional usurpation of all of the powers of our tripart government and use of those powers to benefit "public health" is at the cost of the American way of life, including your ability to work for a living and get medical care for yourself and your dependents for anything other than Covid 19. Michigan United For Liberty filed suit this Tuesday in the Court of Claims; that complaint can be read here, it includes civics lessons that should have been taught in high school. https://www.michiganunitedforliberty.com/governor_whitmer_lawsuit

Bill T.
Sat, 04/25/2020 - 1:01am

Suing the governor is such a waste of valuable time and energy. Not on MUL's part, but on the Governor or whoever has to spend energy doing something other than dealing with the crisis. The suit goes on to say that... ONLY 32,000 cases thus far. On that point I would remind you that we have ONLY tested about 1% of the population. Otherwise those numbers presumably would be much, much higher. Of those 32K, 3,000 have died. A 10% mortality rate. These numbers will end up being much different, if the White House would actually do it's job and formulate a plan to get testing where it needs to be. It was NEVER designed to be a state issue as Trump would like it to be. To be honest, this is where you should be focusing your energy. Whitmer is having to deal with a problem that may have been manageable had Trump not ignored the virus and wasted a month.

The group in the lawsuit was formed within the last month. It claims to have 8,000 members. IN ONE MONTH! That's pretty amazing given recent polls show that the state and the country are about 20% in favor of re-opening everything now, while 80% say it's to soon, proceed with caution. Most importantly, it is a decided majority that agree with how the governor is handling this.

Lastly, the suit contends that the acts that grant the governor emergency powers; MCL 30.401 (written in 1976) and MCL 10.31 (written in 1945) are unconstitutional. Apparently the Deep State was put together to thwart Trump much earlier than we ever knew.

I lost both of my jobs 5 weeks ago. One was W2 and one was 1099. My 1099 job may NEVER return. My wife permanently lost her job. I have yet to see my $1,200 check. My wife has not either. I have yet to receive a dime from Michigan unemployment. Can't even talk to someone. Not happy about that at all, yet I know that the Governor is doing the right thing. Without the order, the hospitals and morgues will be absolutely over-run. The numbers could become exponential. She is doing EXACTLY the same thing as governors, prime ministers and presidents all over the world are doing. The only people in the world who think their rights are being trampled are American Republicans.

By the way, check out the latest numbers. The last 5 days our cases in Michigan have been going UP! NOT DOWN. Trump wants 14 days of a downward trend before opening. So are you going to follow the president or not? Make up your minds. Those numbers correspond with the days since protesting began. Weird.

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 5:24pm

Yes, and then the republicans will have a governor and they will have to change the rules again so their governor can be all powerful...……sick of it.