Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer chided the state’s House Republicans on Thursday after the lawmakers threatened to withhold billions in school funding over arguments regarding her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a news conference, Whitmer said the GOP members’ actions were “cruel and reckless,” noting that lives continue to hang in the balance.
Numbers in the state have dipped recently and officials reported the fewest new cases in over three months on Tuesday.
“The executive has to be nimble and quick when lives are on the line,” she said.
Whitmer noted that while other states had set standards before, “every state that has done that has had to change that along the way.”
“That’s why we’ve been reticent,” she said.
Whitmer’s remarks came on the heels of her third State of the State address, during which she called for unity to a mixed reaction.
“It’s easy to look back on this last year and focus on the bad. But we cannot forget the action we took to protect ourselves and our families,” she said. “To those of you who stepped up and did your part, who listened to medical experts, stayed home, wore a mask, helped out a neighbor, and practiced social distancing – your action saved lives. Your action ensured that more Michiganders will be able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas 2021 with their loved ones.”
Speaking directly to the state’s legislative leaders in her address, Whitmer said the job now is to “fix the damn road ahead – together.”
“Let’s commit to the strong bipartisan action we took last year and focus that same energy to end the pandemic, grow our economy and get our kids back on track,” she urged. “The people of Michigan are counting on us.”
While Democrats like state Rep. Darrin Camilleri thanked Whitmer for her direction and guidance during the crisis, Republicans were not as convinced.
Just hours prior to the speech, Senate Republicans rejected 13 of her appointments to various boards and committees and House Republicans said they would hold onto a significant chunk of a multi-billion-dollar aid package unless Whitmer agrees to a law that would strip her and the Michigan Health Department of emergency health powers.
Whitmer proposed a $5.6 billion recovery plan last week, and Republicans countered with $3.5 billion. Although both plans prioritize reopening schools, Whitmer is supporting a return date of Mar. 1 and House Republicans are hoping to offer public schools $250 per student if they commit to a Feb. 15 reopening.
“The people we represent did not consent to Gov. Whitmer’s continued closures. The people of Michigan want and deserve answers,” they said.
Sen. Jon Bumstead, Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, and Sen. Rick Outman all told FOX 17 that Whitmer’s actions would speak louder than her calls to work together — though VanWoerkom asked for a partner in the governor’s office to get “things done for Michigan families.”
“Some Michigan school districts haven’t had in-person classes since March — that’s hurting kids in ways we can’t even imagine, and not just academically,” Michigan House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert said in a Wednesday statement. “The disruption of sports and other extracurricular activities also takes a major toll.”
He also noted that Whitmer’s budget request is “off the mark by a wide margin.”
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich shot back that if Republicans really wanted to help, they could offer solutions instead of raise issues.
“It’s not our job to play petty games just for the sake of flexing on the governor, especially while she’s trying to get us through the tail end of a deadly pandemic with little to no help from you,” he said.
On Thursday, Whitmer said that her administration has invited Republicans to data modeling meetings, but they had often been “no-shows.”
Reportedly seeking “common ground” with the legislature, Whitmer told reporters she did not respond to Republicans’ actions on Wednesday because she wanted to acknowledge the sacrifices of Michiganders and the residents lost to the pandemic.
“I’m not going to sink to have this argument that apparently some members of the Legislature want to have,” she said.
Fox News has reached out to Whitmer’s office for comment, but did not receive a response.