If majority Republicans want to be taken seriously, they should, but they probably won’t.
Question: Why should they, and, if they don’t, why not?
Answer: They should because she is the face of Whitmer’s flawed lockdown policies of the past year that haven’t proven to work, have been contradictory and arbitrary, and have caused substantial damage to the state’s economy as well as her constituents’ physical and mental health. In her testimony before the Senate’s advice and consent committee, Hertel made it clear she would never do anything not “on the same page” as the governor. There is little that distinguishes Whitmer’s policies from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s, but it took an independent-minded Democratic Attorney General and gutsy Democratic state legislators in New York to bring Cuomo to heel. He now says he will sign any bills lawmakers send him reining in his powers. Here in Michigan, however, Democratic legislators are mute, even though many of them realize Whitmer has abused her office. Meanwhile, Michigan’s chief law enforcement officer, Dana Nessel, is in Whitmer’s pocket.
Question: Then why don’t Senate Republicans act, if they clearly have the power?
Answer: They claim they HAVE acted — to send Whitmer a “message” — by refusing to consent to the governor’s appointments of more than a dozen members of various boards and commissions. It hasn’t worked. Nobody thinks that’s meaningful, and the GOP senators look asinine. Their rejections by and large involve obscure panels such as the Board of Mechanical Rules and the Data Collection Agency Governing Board, and they’re unrelated to Whitmer’s over-the-top Coronavirus policies. Majority Republicans have also sent COVID-19 supplemental appropriation measures to Whitmer with language limiting Whitmer’s powers. If she doesn’t accept these strictures, they shouldn’t waste any time sending her another message. They’ll need 19 votes — a majority of senators elected and serving, which is now 36 (with two vacancies). With a March 22 deadline for action looming, there must be 19 affirmative votes not to approve Hertel, who has several advantages other than the Republicans’ lack of testicular fortitude. She formerly worked on GOP legislative staff and has many friends among lawmakers. Also, unbelievably, spineless business lobbyists who have expressed outrage at Whitmer’s policies since last year are officially supporting Hertel’s nomination, probably out of fear that, if they don’t, the vindictive governor will yank liquor licenses and sic MIOSHA on non-compliant establishments. Maybe these naifs believe their only problem with state government was Robert Gordon (who resigned under mysterious circumstances in January) as DHHS director rather than Hertel. They’ll find out differently — their problem starts at the top: Whitmer.
Question: But refusing to confirm Whitmer’s appointments sounds so petty and so MEAN! Democrats wouldn’t do anything like this to a Republican governor, would they?
Answer: Not only would they, they already have. Remember, Democrats have hardly ever had the chance in Michigan, because they have controlled the Senate for only 11 years since 1938 (1965-66 and 1975-1984), During 10 of those 11 years, they had a Republican governor, either George Romney or William G. Milliken. In 1979, just after Bill Milliken had won a third full term by his biggest margin ever, he nominated a man named Richard A. Hemmings to be Insurance Commissioner. A Chicagoan, Hemmings was the result of a national search, and he had an impeccable reputation as legal counsel to the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners. He arrived in Michigan to serve out the unexpired term of his predecessor. After six months, Milliken appointed him to a full four-year term. Inexplicably, the state Senate, controlled by Democrats, voted against confirming him. Milliken was furious (this was a rarity), and he nominated Hemmings again. The majority Democrats turned him down once more, with no explanation EXCEPT THAT THEY COULD. Hemmings left Michigan, never to return, and went on to an illustrious career as CEO of Fidelity Life and Members Mutual as well as partnership in a major law firm in the Windy City. He probably considered himself lucky to have escaped his unhappy side track to Michigan. What happened to Hemmings was a disgrace, but nobody in the Michigan news media remembers this, or if they do they have suppressed it for partisan reasons, even if they’ve looked it up.
Question: The late, great Frank J. “The Eternal General” Kelley believed that the powers of Michigan governor were far more limited than the current governor thinks they are. Years ago, Kelley told The Detroit Free Press that he never ran for governor because he felt he could accomplish more as Attorney General, an office he felt, at the time, was more powerful than the governor’s office. But Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t believe that. She has reinvented the Michigan governorship, assuming unilateral powers that Kelley never envisioned. What has changed in the past couple of decades to make this possible?
Answer: Nothing has changed. We’ve got the same Constitution that we had when Kelley was A.G. and when Whitmer was a member of the Legislature. We have the same laws as well. Here’s what Kelley told the Free Press: “The governor has little … power, but the public attributes dictatorial power to him (now her), and they think that he (or she) can get onto a white charger and lead them into the promised land. You and I know that that’s not true. The purpose of the governor is to execute and carry out the laws passed by the Legislature. He or she himself passes no laws, makes no laws and cannot make laws and cannot take action unless he or she is empowered by the Legislature. The public doesn’t know that.” But Whitmer has ignored what Kelley believed, and what every governor before Whitmer believed. Even when the Supreme Court has ruled that Whitmer’s use of the 1945 so-called “Riot Act” was unconstitutional, she spurned the judicial edict and laid claim to even more obscure laws to empower her to continue her illegal lockdown actions, using her Department of Health & Human Services in particular.
Question: Is there no way out of this?
Answer: There doesn’t seem to be, as long as the Republican majorities in the House and, especially, in the Senate continue to pule and whine about Whitmer’s usurpation of authority to run state government as she sees fit, with no input from anybody else, without doing some obvious things to strip away her unilateral powers, like refusing to confirm Elizabeth Hertel.