Political Insider: Road funds put potholes in schedules

Detroit News staff

The continued legislative impasse over road funding is interfering with some state senators’ summer plans.

In May, Senate Republican leaders vowed to work all but two weeks this summer – even the week of the Fourth of July holiday – to find a solution to the state’s road funding woes.

State Sen. Jack Brandenburg originally planned to visit congressional Republicans next week in Washington, D.C., as he tests the 2016 waters for running for the 10th Congressional District seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Candice Miller.

The Harrison Township Republican postponed the trip until July, thinking the Senate would be in session next week. But Senate leaders this week canceled next week’s session.

“The schedule’s been so screwed up,” Brandenburg said Wednesday.

The Senate will be in session the week of July 6 during the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City – prime politicking time for Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. He said Wednesday he’s “not happy.”

“But I get paid to do my job and finding a solution for transportation funding is a key part of it,” Schmidt said.

High hopes for Harbaugh

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, says he is optimistic about how the University of Michigan football team will do this fall under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I don’t like sleeping in the basement,” Upton said Tuesday.

Upton, a former sports editor for the Michigan Daily college newspaper, bought season tickets starting in 1986 – the same year that his grandfather passed away and he bought his house.

Upton’s grandfather, also named Fred Upton, had Michigan season tickets since around 1935. Upton joked about what employees at the university must think about his longevity.

“I’m sure the ticket office is saying, ‘When is this Fred Upton, at the same address, ... gonna – he’s had them for 80 years!’” Upton said.

Pizza on their minds

Shortly after Democrats torpedoed President Barack Obama’s package of trade bills Friday, a reporter for the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call observed on Twitter that Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, was on the House floor “discussing, plotting” with a half-dozen fellow conservatives.

Amash must have been hungry. He later responded with a post explaining, “We were just discussing that new @pizzahut pizza with the hot dogs in the crust.” He linked to a photo of the restaurant chain’s hot dog-stuffed crust pizza and a report that it would soon be available in the U.S.

On Tuesday, the House voted to give GOP leaders and the White House six weeks to develop a new plan for their trade package. Amash voted against the extension.

Gov’s mind open on prez

Gov. Rick Snyder quickly decided last month not to run for president in 2016.

But now he doesn’t appear to be in a rush to pick sides in the crowded GOP primary, even after meeting privately Tuesday with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

“What I would say is the field hasn’t fully fleshed out yet,” Snyder said Wednesday.

Conyers, Pitts join forces

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, recently worked with Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania to reboot a congressional caucus devoted to raising awareness of human rights issues in the territory of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa.

A movement has sought independence since 1973, disputing Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the former Spanish colony. Neither the United States nor the United Nations recognizes Morocco’s claim.

The Department of State has documented citizens’ lack of self-rule; the disregard for the rule of law by Moroccan security forces, and restrictions on civil liberties and political rights for members of the independence movement.

Conyers hopes the caucus can encourage the Obama administration to use its leverage in the U.N. to make headway.

“While the State Department played an important role in renewing the U.N. peacekeeping mission for Western Sahara, I hope that Congress can push for a greater emphasis on human-rights monitoring and scheduling the referendum necessary to resolve the long-running controversy,” he said.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Melissa Nann Burke and David Shepardson