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Whitmer impeachment resolution introduced, but key Republicans oppose

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan's Republican legislative leaders threw water this week on the idea of trying to impeach Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The opposition Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, came as Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, on Wednesday introduced an impeachment resolution.

"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," Chatfield said Wednesday afternoon.

Shirkey said Tuesday: "I have not signed on to any notion of impeachment proceedings."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and House Speaker Lee Chatfield are pictured.

A handful of House Republicans, who oppose Whitmer's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have voiced support on social media for launching impeachment proceedings against the Democratic governor.

Under the Michigan Constitution, the state House can impeach officers for corrupt conduct in office or for crimes or misdemeanors by a majority vote. But it would take a two-thirds vote of support from the Senate to remove and convict the officer.

Republicans are never going to get a two-thirds vote to remove the Democratic governor in the Senate, where Democrats control 42% of the seats, said Bob LaBrant, a longtime Michigan attorney who served as counsel to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"That’s just craziness," said LaBrant, who has previously studied the history of impeachment and officer removal in Michigan.

To his knowledge, LaBrant said, the only time impeachment has worked in Michigan was in the 1940s when a judge was removed after he issued quick divorces on the side.

Whitmer was elected with 53% support in 2018 and has received praise from public health experts for her aggressive actions to combat the pandemic.

LaFave's resolution includes four articles and contends that Whitmer "has exceeded her constitutional authority" and "issued orders that are not in the best interests of the people of this state."

"The state constitution does not permit the Governor to bypass the legislative process nor does it empower her to unilaterally make or amend laws for the protection of public health," one of the articles says, referring to orders Whitmer has issued to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In response to the impeachment proposal, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the governor is focused on saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

“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," Brown said.

Shirkey said the energy that would be spent on trying to impeach the governor would be better used for other efforts.

"I think we have a big job ahead of us to evaluate all that we have observed in this most recent election cycle," he said.

Likewise, Chatfield said he's been opposed to the governor's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and sued her in court, but he won't allow the impeachment push to advance while he's speaker.

"Republicans are not the party that impeaches because we have disagreements," Chatfield said. "And Republicans are not the party that impeaches because we don't like policies. I think what the Democrats did to President Trump in 2019 was shameful. The voters in the state of Michigan are going to have the opportunity have their voices heard in 2022."

If voters want to try to remove the governor sooner, they can attempt a recall effort, he added.

House leadership referred LaFave's resolution to the Government Operations Committee.

cmauger@detroitnews.com