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Senate GOP adopts COVID-19 budget bill despite objections of Democrats

A photograph of the exterior of Michigan Capitol building
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Republican-controlled state Senate adopted a COVID-19 budget bill on Thursday over the objections of Democrats.

The bill includes money for schools, help for struggling businesses, and rent assistance.

But it also holds back some federal funds that could be used to bargain with Governor Gretchen Whitmer over COVID restrictions.Democratic state Senator Erika Geiss said that’s wrong.

“What was done today completely neglected and ignored the fact that the sooner we get all of the funds to our communities and people, the sooner we get to some semblance of non-pandemic life,” Geiss said.

The budget bill has become central to the battle between Republican lawmakers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer over the extent of COVID-19 restrictions.

GOP lawmakers said they were exercising their authority over spending decisions. They're pushing back against the governor and her administration’s use of emergency powers.

“Send money! Spend money! Demand more money! As if money were some magic bullet that’s been missing when it comes to solving our epidemic,” said state Senator Ed McBroom, a Republican from the Upper Peninsula.

The vote came on the same day that a Senate committee opened confirmation hearings on Whitmer’s new Department of Health and Human Services Director, Elizabeth Hertel.

The budget bill now goes to the state House of Representatives.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.