Michigan GOP effort to censure Upton, Meijer fails in committee

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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Washington — GOP U.S. Reps. Fred Upton and Peter Meijer avoided censure Wednesday by a Michigan Republican Party committee, which defeated the resolution by a 9-5 vote, the panel's chairman said.

Upton of St. Joseph and Meijer of Grand Rapids Township were among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in instigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

The failed censure vote is the latest skirmish in a tug of war within the party that's pitted Trump loyalists against those denouncing his unproven claims that the presidential election was stolen.

Veteran Advocate for Fred Upton, Toni Kennedy (right) listens to U.S. Representative Fred Upton, one of the "longest-serving" members of Congress and who is running for reelection, as he addresses roughly 25 campaign staff and volunteers before they distribute campaign literature in Portage, Michigan on October 3, 2020.

The vote on a resolution to censure the two congressmen was held Wednesday evening by the Michigan GOP's internal Issues Committee, chaired by Norm Shinkle, a longtime state party official who confirmed the vote to The Detroit News. The vote was by secret ballot, but he opposed the measure.

"Some of these people are far out, and they think it's good for the Republican Party to condemn sitting Republicans, and I don't," Shinkle said. "That's terrible. ... It's got nothing to do with electing Republicans in 2022."

He said his contact information was released online, as well as that of several other Issues Committee members who were not in favor of condemning Republicans. They've been inundated with hundreds of calls and emails from Trump supporters for weeks. 

"The members were under pressure, so we actually went to the trouble of having a secret ballot, so members aren't publicly exposed to more pressure," Shinkle said.

"Anyway, it's behind us. We're moving forward to 2022. ... We made the right decision, and it wasn't by one vote or two votes, so I'm happy."

Shinkle said Wednesday's vote had nothing to do with the Upton or Meijer personally. He quoted the late GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick Headlee, saying, "We don't want to eat our young." 

Rep. Peter Meijer

"Who's next? Mike Shirkey? He outlawed AR-15s in the Capitol. Let's take him out," Shinkle said, referring to the state Senate majority leader. "It would never stop. You can always find somebody voting against something you like."

The state party is struggling with how much energy members should devote to debating officeholders' votes, three months after the Democratic-led U.S. House's Jan. 13 vote to impeach the former president.

Republican Dominic Jakubowski, 20, of Clay Township, has said he wrote the proposed resolution for the Michigan Republican state committee, of which he is a member.

“If anything, I think that Republican voters feel disenfranchised because these Republican legislators aren’t doing their jobs (of) representing the values of their constituents," Jakubowski told The News earlier this month.

The measure would have formally censured Upton and Meijer for their votes to impeach Trump. Censure is a symbolic gesture of disapproval or rebuke. 

"Life moves on. This was a vote of conscience,” Upton said in a recent interview. “You know, Betsy DeVos quit the next day, and (Transportation) Secretary Chao quit the next day, and the Secretary of Defense came out ... and said, yep, the president, in fact did inspire his departure.

"The president said he did everything ‘totally appropriate.’ Those were his words. As one that witnessed a lot of bad things, I didn't think that that was exactly the case.”

Upton's primary challengers in southwest Michigan include state Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott of New Buffalo, John Rocha of Portage and Jerry Solis of Three Rivers.

Former U.S. House candidate Tom Norton, a small businessman from Ada, and Audra Johnson of Battle Creek have formed committees in Meijer's district, which includes most of Grand Rapids.

mburke@detroitnews.com

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.

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