Photo courtesy the Office of the Governor.
Photo courtesy the Office of the Governor.

Despite Republican opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID policies, her handling of the pandemic remains broadly popular.

LANSING, Mich.—Some of the top Republicans in Lansing are calling plans to impeach Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over pandemic protections “shameful” following clamoring from a small but vocal part of their caucus.

Michigan’s Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) dismissed calls from some Republicans in the Legislature to impeach Democratic Gov. Whitmer. 

The Legislature has had a battle with Gov. Whitmer over her pandemic protection policies since April, boiling to a crescendo in October when the then-conservative Michigan Supreme Court struck down the mechanism that Gov. Whitmer claimed emergency authority under, but did not go as far as to say no appropriate mechanism existed. 

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According to the November issue of Lake Effect, a project of Public Policy Polling and Progress Michigan, 55% of Michiganders both approve of the way Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has handled the coronavirus pandemic and of her job performance overall. A more recent poll from WDIV showed that number had risen to over 60% as cases began to surge. 

Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, criticized Whitmer for the partial shutdown of restaurants, bars, high schools and colleges, as well as limitations on gatherings in the “three week pause” that began in mid-November amid a string of record-setting days of new coronavirus diagnoses. Chatfield said House Republicans stand ready to act in a bipartisan way when Gov. Whitmer “decides it is worth her time,” according to Associated Press reporting.

That response is discordant with the account of state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), who recently chastised House Republicans in an interview with The ‘Gander

“It’s been a minute now since that Supreme Court ruling came down, but we haven’t [acted],” she said. “It’s frustrating as a legislator to see this be one of those cases where the GOP didn’t like how the governor was handling it and had all these talking points about how they were being prevented from legislating around this issue—they were not. We did not meet for months to introduce legislation and when we did the amount of it that was related to COVID-19 was miniscule.” 

Pohutsky has pressed the House to take more decisive stands on coronavirus issues, and Gov. Whitmer has asked legislators to pass a statewide mask mandate that would be more firmly rooted than the administrative policy from the Department of Health and Human Services, issued shortly after the ruling. 

READ MORE: Gov. Whitmer Asks Michigan Legislature for Statewide Mask Law

State Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) began the talk of impeaching Whitmer after health director Robert Gordon implemented the three-week shut down of parts of Michigan’s economy in an effort to stem the accelerating spread of COVID-19. Maddock said Whitmer “crossed the line” on COVID-19 restrictions without legislative input. He said five Republican colleagues support his position, though he did not name them.

Chatfield called Maddock’s proposal “shameful.”

“We’re not the party that impeaches someone because we’re upset with policies that they’ve enacted,” he said.

He went on to say that pursuing impeachment wasn’t a good use of the Legislature’s time.

“With the current set of facts that we’re living under right now, the current impeachment resolution will not have any proceeding on the House floor,” he said, adding that the effort to impeach Gov. Whitmer is a “distraction from the real things we have to get done in our state.”

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Responding to the introduction of formal articles of impeachment against her, Gov. Whitmer’s office told WXYZ that the governor was too busy to engage in political stunts. 

“Gov. Whitmer doesn’t have any time for partisan politics or people who don’t wear masks, don’t believe in science, and don’t have a plan to fight this virus,” the statement said. “Right now, she is focused on saving lives. The governor will continue to work hard for all 10 million Michiganders. This is about Michigan vs. COVID-19. Gov. Whitmer doesn’t care if you’re a Trump Republican or a Biden Democrat. We are all in this together.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.