Michigan senator: Block Whitmer appointees until COVID restrictions are lifted

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republicans in the Michigan Senate should block appointments made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer until she lifts business restrictions intended to limit the spread of COVID-19, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, proposed the idea in a press release on Wednesday, the same day Whitmer's administration extended a ban on indoor dining at bars and restaurants through the end of the month. The current closure had been scheduled to expire on Friday night.

On Wednesday, the governor said her plan is to allow indoor dining to resume in the state with capacity limitations and a curfew on Feb. 1.

Michigan Sen. Jim Stamas

"Michigan is one of only a handful of states still prohibiting indoor dining but — unlike other states with closed restaurants — Michigan doesn’t have plans or metrics in place to set a path for reopening," Stamas said. "As long as the governor rejects the importance of thousands of restaurants and small businesses she continues to shut down, then we should reject her appointments."

Stamas, who owns a restaurant in Midland called Pizza Sam's, said his goal is "to bring the governor to the table on COVID-19 issues and understand that the Legislature plays an important role in our representative government."

Many of Whitmer's appointments are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

The governor criticized the idea from Stamas during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. She said it was unfortunate that members of the Legislature want to "resort to threats" to open up restaurants.

"It's really dangerous. And it's really irresponsible. I am hopeful that they don't intend to carry these through," Whitmer said. "Because we are working to reengage this sector of our economy. They've never been closed. They've got take-out possibilities. They've been able to do outdoor dining. We've worked to try to help meet their financial constraints as we've navigated things. We want them to be successful."

The decisions have to be driven by what's best for people's health, Whitmer said.

Stamas would block her appointments to boards that "matter," like the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board and panels that oversee universities, like Grand Valley State or Western Michigan, Whitmer said.

The GOP senator said restaurant owners want to reopen to help their employees.

"I've had multiple moved to tears because they couldn't provide for their families, for their Christmas," Stamas said. "They're still trying to manage to pay rent and utility bills."

"I just think that we waited too long," he added.

Stamas said he hadn't heard back from Senate GOP leadership on his idea to block the appointments, which run through the Senate Advice and Consent Committee.