Michigan Senate gives Shirkey authority to sue Whitmer over COVID relief money

Mike Shirkey AP Images
Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 18:25:15-05

LANSING, Mich. — Another legal battle could be brewing in Lansing, as the debate over how to allocate federal COVID-19 relief money continues on.

Michigan senators voted on party-lines Thursday to give Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) the authority to sue Governor Gretchen Whitmer if she allocates relief funding from bills she vetoes.

The governor signed off on $2.5 billion in spending but nixed parts of bills pushed by Republican lawmakers earlier this week. The governor also vetoed a bill that ties more than $840 million in K-12 education funding to a bill that would take power away from the state health department to issue orders during a pandemic. The governor says her office is reviewing if they are still able to release the funds while vetoing the language within the bill.

“Some of it is connected to me relinquishing powers of the executive office which is never going to happen. The Legislature knows that so, it is theatre and I think gamesmanship and can be really dangerous when we’ve got such important issues we’ve got to tackle together,” Whitmer told FOX 17 Tuesday.

If the governor vetoes the power-stripping bill but allocates the money separately, Shirkey could now file suit against her on behalf of the Republican-led Senate according to the resolution adopted Thursday morning. "The power to appropriate moneys is solely vested in the Legislature," reads the resolution drafted by Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland).

This move is the latest in the on-going split government battle seen in Lansing, with each side accusing the other of not working together on legislation related to the pandemic.

”I completely and categorically reject the notion that we haven’t been trying to work together,” Shirkey said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“We’ve asked for clarity, so that the citizens of Michigan can know with certainty what they have to do to prove that can be trusted. And that is yet to be determined, and yet to be presented. And it's a shame,” Shirkey added.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) criticized his Republican counterparts on the senate floor, “In reality, the only plan you've offered is what we're voting on today. Sue, sue, sue. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct, and then talk about things that have nothing to do with what the vast majority of Michiganders care about,” Ananich said.

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature sued Governor Whitmer over her use of executive powers during the pandemic. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled againstthe governor in October.