Whitmer, Republican legislative leaders disagree on who isn’t collaborating with COVID-19

Republicans say Whitmer ignores their ideas while Whitmer says Republicans ‘just haven’t done anything'
The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.
The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.(source: WJRT)
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 12:02 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican leaders in the Legislature disagree on which side refuses to cooperate with Michigan’s coronavirus response.

After Whitmer’s administration issued a series of restrictions Sunday evening aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the state’s two top Republicans criticized her for “going it alone, again.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Republicans were engaged in good faith discussions with Whitmer’s administration on next steps against COVID-19 while her staff was working on a separate strategy without legislative input. He said the restrictions announced Sunday did not include Senate Republican input.

“We are disappointed that Gov. Whitmer chose to go it alone, again,” Shirkey said. “The Senate Republicans will continue working with our doctors and the medical community on ways we can combat this virus and are ready to work with the governor when she decides to work as a team to fight this virus.”

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said Republicans issued a plan last spring to address the coronavirus pandemic and designed a plan to reopen schools. He said Whitmer’s administration ignored the COVID-19 plan last spring, but the school reopening plan remains in place.

Chatfield said Republican legislators also have voted to approve billions of dollars in COVID-19 funding, reforms to nursing home policies, protections for health care workers, help for unemployed workers and assistance to small business owners during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The people of Michigan deserve a seat at the table when major decisions like these are made, and those decisions are made better and safer when they do,” Chatfield said. “As always, we stand ready to act in a bipartisan way when the governor decides it is worth her time. Until then, we are still reviewing the details of this order like everyone else.”

On Monday, Whitmer pointed out that legislators are on their annual fall break that coincides with the start of Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season while the state’s COVID-19 numbers increase at a record rate.

“They’re not around. And when they haven’t been around frankly they’ve shown that they’re even capable of keeping themselves safe from COVID. We’ve seen outbreaks in both the Republican caucus in the House and in the Senate," she told ABC12.

Whitmer called on the Legislature earlier this month to support a bipartisan face mask mandate, which would transform the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order into a state law. However, she said Republicans rejected that plan.

Instead of passing bills and supporting her administration’s battle against COVID-19, Whitmer said Republicans “just haven’t done anything.” She pledged to continue including Republicans on discussions about the coronavirus, but she wants to act swiftly when conditions warrant.

"I cannot be in this moment -- you know, it is so urgent we have to move forward and that’s what I want to continue to do,” Whitmer said.

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