Jun 17, 2009
Whitmer calls out the Senate Majority Leader for attack on fellow Senator
LANSING – Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, learned the hard way the response if a Senate Republican steps out of line and displays any independence.
Garcia felt the wraith of Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and his staff last week when Garcia, the chair of the Appropriations sub-committee that sets the spending plan for the Michigan State Police (MSP) budget, criticized Senate leadership for not taking up that budget last week before he leaves for a two-week Michigan National Guard obligation. Traditionally, the chair of the sub-committee guides that budget through the process and fights off amendments to the budget.
The Senate Republicans have been exercising a slash and burn budget process, pushing through the budgets for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1with draconian cuts knowing the House Democrats will again have to be the ones to act responsibly like they did in 2007. That will allow Senate Republicans to claim to their shrinking base that they tried to pass a budget with just cuts as they try to hang on to their slim majority in the 2010 election.
Just on Tuesday the Senate passed along party lines the General Government budget that cut $20.55 million from the 21st Century Jobs – created to create jobs – and a 12 percent cut from local revenue sharing. That will surely lead to massive layoffs of police officers and other local government employees and cuts in essential services.
But the Senate is supposed to be a place of civilized debate, much like the U.S. Senate where the upper chamber was formed with the idea of genteel debate. The attack on Garcia was not something often seen, and it was left to a Democrat to defend the institution and a fellow Senator from attack. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, called out Bishop on his breach of etiquette on the Senate floor Tuesday during statements.
“Just last week, there was a personal attack leveled against my fellow Ingham County colleague who left in frustration because the Senate leadership couldn’t close the deal on ensuring that troopers were not laid off.,” she said. “While I have been the target of the majority spokesperson’s venom, I never thought I would see it aimed at one of your fellow Republicans, nor would I imagine that it would be me who would rise to rebuke that comment. But I do so rise now.”
Whitmer pointed out that Bishop mouthpiece Matt Marsden is speaking for him when he attacks a fellow Senator and their military service.
“I would hope you do not condone or encourage such behavior,” Whitmer said. “It is one thing to play politics and feign irritation with members of the other side of the aisle; people expect that sort of thing to some extent in this place. But you do a huge disservice to this institution when you vest your staff people with the credibility of your office and they wage personal attacks against a sitting member of this body; a member who is not only trying to save the State Police trooper ranks, but is off at Army War College this week serving our country in the National Guard.”
Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, was so angry that his leader was being called out that he tried to censor Whitmer, and he raised an objection and tried to get her remarks stricken from the official Senate Journal. But the President pro tempore - Sen. Richardville, R-Monroe - ruled that no rules or procedures were violated, so printing the statement in the Journal was in order.