Apr 22, 2010

Senate Republicans get outplayed in political game

LANSING -- Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s attempt to unilaterally reject appointments Gov. Jennifer Granholm made to six university boards for terms that begin the day she leaves office with no hearings failed Thursday with a procedure move by Democrats and some desertions by a GOP caucus that usually marches in lockstep.

Granholm made the bipartisan appointments on April 7, and she followed previous precedent set by former Republican Gov. John Engler in making the same type of appointments. The attempt to reject the appointments without the normal advise and consent hearings upset Democrats and touched off a long debate.

“Article I, Section 17 of our Constitution allows these people the right to a hearing in front of a committee to determine whether or not they are qualified to serve the appointments that the Governor has sought to make,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming. “The Michigan Constitution does not limit the time period to which the Governor may make an appointment to the office. Because the appointment power is vested in the Governor, the timing of these appointments is within the Governor’s discretion; not just this Governor but every single Governor of the state of Michigan since we approved this Constitution back in 1964.”

The normally organized Republicans were simply outmaneuvered by the minority Democrats.

After all of the agenda had taken care of, the Senate discharged the 14 university appointments in question from the Government Operations Committee, bringing them to the floor. Then the wheels fell off the Republicans‘ bus and their carefully laid plans.

Democrats sought to vote separately on each appointment instead of voting them up or down with just one vote. Normally, those types procedural motions usually go along strictly party lines, but two Republicans sided with the Democrats while another Republican did not vote. The effort failed 18-19.

“I ask you either approve these appointments, or remove this item of business, and let’s get on with what we are supposed to be here doing, not playing partisan, political games,” Prusi said.

As the debate continued and about a dozen senators having requested to speak, Republicans tried to end the debate, but that motion failed with five Republicans breaking ranks to oppose ending debate.

Right after that vote ended, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, made a motion to adjourn and Lt. Governor John Cherry Jr., the Senate's presiding officer, granted it - in accordance with Senate rules - over the objection of Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt.

“We can debate the process of gubernatorial appointments and equity all day, and the fairness of this action is definitely questionable, but this is not what the Senate should be focused on in the first place,” Whitmer said. “As leader of the Senate and someone vying to be the top lawyer in the state, you would think that Mike Bishop would have more respect for the state constitution, but his latest emphasis on politics over progress only continues to show how out of touch he is with the people of Michigan.”

Subscription only Gongwer reported that “ Bishop was livid at the Thursday defection,” and “Mr. Bishop left the Senate chamber without speaking to reporters.”

It’s unclear if the issue will be taken up on Tuesday, but clearly some Republicans are impressed with some of the nominees.

Here are the nominees:

Edward Haynor
Larry Leatherwood

Ronald Edmonds
Kevin Kelley

John Cakmakci
George Franklin

Russell Gronevelt
Terry Woychowski

Douglas Crim
Matthew Tomasiewicz

Michael Hawks
Erane Washington-Kendrick

Larry Inman
Douglas Roberts

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