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Upton backs Scalise for majority leader

Detroit News staff

Michigan’s senior congressional Republican, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, has endorsed Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, to be the next majority leader of the U.S. House.

Scalise and Upton have served together on the House Energy & Commerce panel, which Upton chairs. Scalise faces what appears to be an uphill battle against House Majority Leader and Rep.Kevin McCarthy of California.

“Working together, we’ve advanced conservative solutions and held the Obama administration accountable,” Upton said of Scalise in a statement. “I’ve witnessed firsthand his inclusive leadership style, ability to build broad coalitions and his passion for getting the job done right for the American people. I know Steve will continue these efforts as our majority leader.”

The Republican caucus votes Thursday to select its nominee for House speaker – a position that will be vacated at month’s end with the retirement of Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

The election of the new speaker is set for Oct. 29, after which the Republicans will elect the rest of their leadership team, Boehner said this week.

No state-sponsored ads

A west Michigan state senator wants to end state-sponsored advertising for the expanded Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, arguing that the ads are promoting more government dependency.

Sen.Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit state agencies from advertising the Healthy Michigan plan, which makes Medicaid available to childless adults earning less than $15,654.

The Department of Health and Human Services spent $2 million last fiscal year on TV ads for Healthy Michigan, with $1 million coming from the general fund and $1 million in federal matching funds, Schuitmaker said.

“When we’re having trouble paying for our roads, why are we spending $1 million promoting a program that has exceeded enrollment projections?” said Schuitmaker, who voted against Medicaid expansion in 2013.

Schuitmaker said she got the idea for the bill from a constituent in her 26th Senate District, which includes Van Buren and Allegan counties. The senator said she’s seen some of the ads during prime time TV commercial breaks.

When Gov. Rick Snyder called on the Legislature to accept the Obama administration’s offer to initially pay for the expanded Medicaid program, his administration projected enrollment would max out at 470,000 by 2021.

But by March of this year, enrollment in the program had already exceeded 600,000. As of Monday, enrollment stood at 573,635, according to DHHS.

Beginning in 2017, the state will have to pickup 5 percent of cost of the expanded program and 10 percent of the cost by 2021. But first, state officials have to get approval from the federal government to keep Michigan’s customized Medicaid program in place beyond this year.

“It’s going to put serious financial constraints on the budget in the future,” Schuitmaker said.

The state’s most recent Healthy Michigan ad declares the program is “working” for thousands of recipients and features a woman who was treated for breast cancer on the expanded Medicaid program.

“I don’t know what I would have done without this coverage,” the unnamed woman said.

AG Schuette publishes book

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette shares what he has learned about humility, relationships, forgiveness and resilience in a just-published book titled “Life Lessons from a Small Town.”

The writing of books normally precedes or coincides with presidential campaigns. Schuette is term-limited, but his fundraising has prompted speculation the Midland Republican will run for governor in 2018.

The book comes with a foreward by Michigan State University football coach Mark Dantonio, who describes the former congressman, state agriculture director, state senator and state Court of Appeals judge as a leader with a “passion for people.”

At a debut event this week with the Capitol press corps, Schuette tried to blunt political suspicions by saying the 162 pages of reflection were 4 1/2 years in the making.

“This book is not about me,” he said. “It’s not about politics. There’s plenty of time for 2018 and 2017.”

His book covers dealings with mentors ranging from former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to a banker in his hometown of Midland who, he said, described the value of making time to cook peanut brittle with his wife. It reveals the genesis of Schuette’s “On Duty” slogan.

“I have learned a lot in my journey in public service ... that might help others,” Schuette said.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush as well as Grand Rapids GOP activist and former party chairwoman Betsy DeVos and Baker contributed book endorsements of the author and content. Bush describes Schuette as one of her husband George H.W. Bush’s Thousand Points of Light.

GOP concerned with votes

Republicans are privately concerned about Democrats crossing over to vote in the Nov. 3 special primary elections in Allegan and Lapeer counties and helping put former Reps. Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser back in the state House of Representatives.

Gamrat, R-Plainwell, is one of eight candidates vying for the 80th District nomination in Republican-heavy Allegan County, meaning the winner of the primary will likely prevail in the March 8 special general election. The seat became open last month after the House expelled Gamrat for misconduct related to her affair with Courser.

Courser, R-Lapeer, is in an extra-crowded 11-candidate GOP primary in the 82nd District in Lapeer County. He resigned from office on Sept. 11 to avoid another expulsion vote.

Now both former lawmakers are trying to convince voters to let them back into office.

And Republican Party insiders are working dilligently to defeat Courser and Gamrat, while mindful that Democrats could influence their primaries.

On Tuesday, Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano caught the attention of Republicans watching the Allegan County race closely with a single tweet.

“While canvassing in Saugatuck yesterday, I convinced 2 Dems to vote for Gamrat in the GOP primary,” DiSano wrote on Twitter.

DiSano, who is known to be a bit of a jokester, later told The Detroit News he wasn’t actually canvassing door-to-door. DiSano said he was just having lunch with two relatives and convinced them to vote for Gamrat on their absentee ballots.

So there’s no coordinated operation by Democrats to torture Republicans by putting Gamrat and Courser back into office — yet.

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Chad Livengood and Gary Heinlein