TIM SKUBICK: Inconsistent or just plain hypocritical?
At the very least senate Democrats are terribly inconsistent. At the very worse it’s a classic example of political hypocrisy.
Roll the tape back to last December. There were 12,000 angry demonstrators on the capitol lawn, kept in check by 500 state troopers and half a dozen mounted police on horse back.
Inside the building, Democrats were just as whipped up because they knew the Right to Work train was chugging along and within hours it would roll over the Democrats and the demonstrators. Republicans would rewrite a chapter in Michigan’s historic labor movement book that none of the RTW opponents wanted to read.
Among one of the more vocal protestations that day was that the Republicans were moving this bill without adequate committee hearings. Usually the legislative process is quite deliberative, some would argue too much so, but in this instance,the criticism went, RTW was being jammed down the throat of labor without even giving labor a chance to open its mouth and say ahhhh.
Democrats were beside themselves that the Republicans would do this. Never mind that the Republicans refuted the criticism, the Democrats would not back off their criticism regarding the apparent lack of due process.
Fast forward to June 20th. Gov. Rick Snyder, frazzled from a cross Atlantic flight from Israel, was demanding that the senate GOP take up, right now, his Medicaid expansion bill. Firmly in his corner where those same anti-RTW Democrats but warbling a different tune this time.
“Vote on it today,” protested Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer.
Hold the phone, retorted her GOP counterpart Sen. Randy Richardville. The senate GOP leader’s caucus was telling him in no uncertain terms that it wanted more time to study this issue. The governor and Democrats were demanding that he and they run this without a committee hearing. In other words jam it through now.
In what amounts to a classic case of wanting it both ways, Sen. Whitmer et.al. were now willing to conveniently abandoned the time-honored committee process in favor of swift action.
What was the major difference here and the reason for the change of heart?
It’s obvious. She and they did not want Right to Work and would do anything to delay it but they wanted health insurance for needy families, many of whom make up the Democratic political base, and to heck with the committee process.
Take your pick, hypocrisy or inconsistency?
And just to tie up a loose end regarding the GOP senate revolt against their own governor on this issue, turns out there was probably more at play than just the desire to go slow.
To be certain there were a handful of senators who were not going to vote for this insurance stuff because it did not mesh with their concept of wanting smaller government.
But there was also a group that had access to some internal polling data that suggested if they sided with the governor, it might hurt the senator’s chances of being re-elected.
Can you say self-preservation?
The MIRS newsletter folks discovered that the Glengariff Group had documented what everyone in town knew already: The governor is not very popular back home. His job approval rating is “underwater” in 37 of the state’s 38 senate districts. And Republicans reside in 26 of those districts.
You can take it from there.
Why would these potentially at-risk senators want to “win one for the Gipper” if the Gipper was going to cost them their jobs next year?
When it comes to saving your own neck or the governor’s, this is not a close call.
The only remaining question is which is worse: Self-preservation at the expense of public policy or inconsistency and hypocrisy trumping the legislative process?
Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.