TIM SKUBICK: A well-deserved round of applause

Bi-partisanship gives way to common ground, elected officials do their job and do it well

Gentlemen take a bow. That means GOP Speaker Jase Bolger and the new House Democratic leader Tim Greimel. And while we are at it, Michigan House take a bow, too.

Look, when these folks do something right, they deserve the applause.

In this case everyone avoided what could have been an ugly and historic confrontation on a day that is normally reserved for hand shakes, not back stabs i.e. the opening day of the new legislative year.

All the ingredients were there for the latter. House Democrats were still hopping mad over the treatment they suffered, as they put it, in the dying days of the lame duck session. Republicans got everything they wanted; Democrats were reduced to political bomb throwing to protest.

Hence some were eager to cast a “no” vote when it came time for the traditional unanimous vote for House Speaker, Republican Jase Bolger (Marshall).

Republicans, on the other hand to even the score, were poised to block Rep. Brian Banks D-Harper Woods, with eight felony convictions on his record as a young man, from being seated.

But Mr. Bolger and Mr. Greimel went to work. Mission accomplished. Through a series of phone conversations and multiple meetings, the two leaders proved they deserved the title. When it came time to seat Mr. Banks, no one balked. When it came time to elect the GOP Speaker, only two Democrats voted no.

Two, not twenty-two.

The lack of a revolt may have been fueled by the speaker making a deal with the Democratic leader on committee assignments.

A little horse trading is not a sin especially if the leader concludes it will lead to a positive outcome.

Mr. Greimel would only smile as he ducked a direct confirmation that a little back scratching was going on. In this case, it probably doesn’t matter how they got there but they did despite the fact that they are not the best of friends.

“I hardly know him,” confesses Mr. Bolger but “I’m excited about the opportunity to work together.”

Mr. Greimel, still the realist, makes his own confession.

“That doesn’t mean we are going to always sing ‘Kum ba ya’” but when they find common ground, the two apparently have pledged to till it together. They will likely get their first chance when the governor reveals his plans for funding the roads and infrastructure repairs on

Wednesday.

“We have some concerns about the road (funding) proposals,” Mr. G. begins.

He’s all about protecting the middle class — one of his favorite terms — and he’s not saying yes yet to any new revenue “on top of the tax hikes Republicans passed last year.”

The Speaker is not there yet either, but leaves the door open which means the governor has a sell job to do on his $1.4 billion-a-year blueprint.

And while on the governor and the issue of trust, maybe it’s long overdue for him to have a private dinner with the key leaders on both sides of the aisle to see if he can build some trust with the two Democrats, Mr. Greimel and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. But first he has some catching up to do. The other day he produced an embarrassing mis-cue.

During a closed door 15 minute appearances in front of House Democrats, a good move by the way, he mistakenly called Tim Greimel, Andy, not once but twice before someone corrected him.

It’s true, persons forget names all the time, but if you are the governor trying to patch up your differences, somebody should have whispered in his ear the name of the Democrat running the show before he went into the lion’s den.

But the bottom line on all this: Mr. Bolger and Mr. Greimel are working to get their bipartisan mojo working and it looks like the governor is, too.

Whether they like it or not, they will need each other as this new year unfolds.

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.

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Posted by Tim Skubick

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.

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