Michigan GOP Attacks Rachel Maddow For ‘Whining’ About Democracy

Last Thursday in an exclusive,Rachel Maddow deftly explained what may appear to be a rather arcane controversy in voting in Michigan’s House of Representatives.

The state’s constitution, amended in the 1960s under Mitt Romney’s father, provides that new laws cannot come into effect until after a legislative session, which can mean up to a 14 month delay. There is an emergency exception to this, allowing a law to go into ‘immediate effect’, and the state’s use of this exception is what Maddow zeroed in on.

That exception requires a two-thirds vote in both state houses, however, despite their sweep in the 2010 elections the Republicans, do not have the numbers in the House of Representatives. Despite that, they have been waving through almost every single law to take ‘immediate effect’ — and Maddow played video of this happening on the House floor (see below) even though the Speaker was being asked for a roll-call vote by opposition Democrats.

The Democrats went to a judge to ask for this practice to stop and although the first judge agreed, an appeal court judge did not.

What Maddow did not note was that state Democrats had also passed numerous laws under Governor Jennifer Granholm also using the ‘immediate effect’ law, so they have obviously had a recent Damascene moment.

The context in which Maddow placed these goings on is one of ongoing and systematic removal of voting rights in Michigan such as under the local ‘emergency managers’ law, which has left about half of the state’s African American population without voting rights. Though local commentators ask why the party did not complain loudly about those ‘emergency manager’ laws going into ‘immediate effect’ at the time.

Democrat Rep. Jeff Irwin told a local blogger that they had been asking for roll-calls but:

“The big difference now is that since the Senate follows the Constitution [with two-thirds roll call votes], there was always one chamber where immediate effect votes would be counted and extremely divisive bills would not earn immediate effect in the Senate.”

That previous Senate also had a GOP majority, so the system was more bipartisan as opposed to the highly partisan body it has become. Many of the contentious bills passed explicitly fit the reason why the 1960s constitution embedded delayed effect — such as ones which immediately impact personal or family finances like one which withdrew same-sex partner benefits. But Irwin’s explanation still doesn’t explain why the Democrats only acted now and not when such bills were being waved through with ‘immediate effect’.

House rules “longstanding practice”, says the GOP, means that the Speaker can just ignore calls for roll-call votes, although the actual rules requires a “record of the vote and name of the members of either house voting on any question shall be entered in the journal” if 20 percent of the House requests such a vote.

GOP House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement:

“It would seem the liberal sour grapes have resulted in an overflowing dose of whine.”

Another law which went into ‘immediate effect’ changed the state’s voting requirements, making it harder to vote. Under the state constitution, it should have not gone into effect until after November’s Presidential election. Maddow singled that out as having a national impact in a key swing state and also noted the links with the exploitation of similar, previously little used, rules which allow for either the blocking of voting or the removal of voting — such as the GOP’s dramatically increased use of the filibuster in Congress — by the GOP elsewhere.

But the failure of Maddow to cover the historic use of ‘immediate effect’ is more than a little disappointing. She does mention it in Monday night’s report but barely.

Eric B., writing for the Michigan Liberal, calls her out — loudly — for this but writes that, no, her error does not let the great ‘defenders of the constitution’ in the GOP off the hook:

Onto the meat of the Republican defense that they get to do it because it’s always been done that way. Well, no, that’s not an excuse for violating the constitution, and this is pretty clearly that. Even if we get past the point that their argument isn’t entirely valid, you simply can’t just skip the parts of the constitution that are inconvenient to you when called out. And, speaking of that, the House Democrats should have raised this last year when it was starting (probably they didn’t because Immediate Effect was previously no big deal because legislation had to have a bipartisan stamp on it in the first place). They didn’t.

Watch Rachel Maddow’s Monday night report:

Last Thursday’s Rachel Maddow Show report.

Related stories:

More Conservative Dirty Tricks

Michigan Wants To Recall Their Governor, Too

Democracy Returns To Flint Michigan

Image: Rachel Maddow Show screengrab


Grace B.
Grace B5 years ago

The triple bogey threat!
Loved your comment Donald T.

Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley5 years ago

Yet another reason not to vote Republican.

Donald T.
Donald T5 years ago

Smart, female, and lesbian, the triple bogey for mentally challenged republicans.

Carole L.
Carole L5 years ago

Bertha S
“Good for Michigan GOP!!!!”

Yay! The gotparty that screams about “protecting constitutional rights” are stripping MI citizens of their constitutional rights to vote! yay! Vote Reich-wing!!! (sic)

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert5 years ago

Sad that the Michigan GOP even got control of the legislature in the first place.

Charles P.
Charles P5 years ago

If it is right, it is right. If it is wrong, it is wrong. The question that was not asked or answered is this,"Were the immediate effect votes during the D majority handled properly or were they ramrodded through as the example of the R's seems to show?" If a full 2/3 of the House voted for them, they ar legitimate. If the count is a quick count, i.e., looks good to me, then they are improper hence they are illegal. All such laws should be subject to a roll call vote at the behest of theminority, no exceptions.

Sharlene H.
S H5 years ago

Give up:
Voter rights
Fair and equal pay
Social Security
Medical coverage
Unemployment ensurance
Loss of jobs
And your child coming home from Iran in a body bag.

Tony C.
Tony C5 years ago

When you try and vote the party of NO out you better make sure that you can vote. Some States have changed their voter registration laws so that even if you wanted to vote you won't be able to. PLEASE CHECK the voter registration laws of the States that you live in NOW, so that you can have the right ID when it comes time to vote. PLEASE tell ALL your friends about this, especially students, seniors, immigrants and the poor. I am sure that the 1% will be flocking to the voting booths so that they can retain their power and money. The 99% had better start THINKING about what will happen if the republicans get in again. For example, no contraceptives which will lead to more people. Right now 8 BILLION PLUS. No abortions even for sick babies, unwanted babies because of rape or incest. No Jobs, undrinkable water because of fracking, war with Iran, no health care. Abstinence programs only, which do not work and many others. Sex Education is needed so that unwanted pregnancy and abortion can be lessened along with STD’S that can KILL your child. So if you don't vote and get as many as you can to vote along with you and the republicans get into power this may and probably will happen. Here is an idea, car pool with a car full to the voting booths (saves gas) and after you vote, have a party and KNOW that you have done your best for your country. Have a designated driver. PLEASE REMEMBER, DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.

Susan M.
Susan McKinnon5 years ago

Rachel Maddow--an honest, democracy-loving, independent, intelligent, truthful, compassionate person. A person to be admired. Wish I could say the same about our greedy, dishonest "Representatives"--how I long for the day when they truly represent us and not their own self-interests. Keep up your good work Rachel.

Dan B.
Dan Brook5 years ago

The regressive Republican Party of No is obstructionist, mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, oily, anti-environment, anti-health, anti-consumer, anti-choice, anti-birth control, anti-education, anti-99%, union busting, Medicare mashing and Social Security slashing, fiscally irresponsible, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, out-of-touch, dishonest, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

NEVER vote for Republicans.