Michigan House fails to expel lawmakers who had affair

LANSING, Mich. — A dramatic day of expulsion hearings, passionate debate, and claims of deals reneged appeared to be on the way to an anti-climatic end late Thursday night as Republicansweren't able to muster the two-thirds House majority vote needed to expel state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
Courser and Gamrat, two tea party Republicans caught up in a sex and cover-up scandal, have Democrats to thank for saving their jobs — at least for the moment. Twenty-six Democrats refused to vote on a resolution to expel Courser, leaving the expulsion vote six votes shy of the 73 votes needed to remove the lawmaker from office. They hadn't taken up the resolution to expel Courser as of 9 p.m. ET.
After a 67-14 vote, with 26 Democrats refusing to vote and two Democrats absent, Republicans called for a reconsideration of the vote and the board was still open as of 9 p.m.
"It's sort of Shakespearian, if you look at it: My fate rests in the hands of the Democrats," Courser said late Thursday.
Many Democrats said, while they found the actions of Courser and Gamrat "disgusting and despicable," they wouldn't vote on the measure because of the process that was used to get to an expulsion. They wanted more information on what Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant knew and when he found out about the affair and bizarre cover-up engineered by Courser and Gamrat. They wanted to hear from two staffers — Ben Graham and Keith Allard — about the process they went through to reveal the cover-up to Republican leadership.
"The issue is much larger than the very narrow scope given to the committee. I really want to know when the staff went to leadership, what they said and when they said it," said state Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores. "The gravity of this issue truly deserves to be looked at in a much broader scope and in brighter light. People deserve that due diligence before we make this decision."
But Republicans said the 833-page report and testimony from both Courser and Gamrat, who both admitted misconduct in office and misuse of taxpayer resources but asked for censure rather than expulsion, clearly laid out plenty of reason to expel the two members.
"The oath that we all take is the sole protection against an unjust expulsion," said state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, chairman of the special committee that voted 4-0 earlier Thursday to expel both members. "They have both admitted their guilt. They both agreed to the damage they've done. And neither can offer a reasonable argument that they're being honest now, or the disdain they have shown to this body and its members is the outlier and not the norm."

Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, was once tight with Courser and Gamrat, but supported the expulsion as a way to end the controversy that has consumed Lansing and Michigan.
"I would say that all the evidence I've seen ... the public, both Republicans and Democrats, can safely say is not in doubt; and, honestly, the public will hold accountable anyone who acts at odds to the actual substantive question before us," he said. "I appeal to the compassion, humanity and decency of my friends on both sides of the aisle: End the damage to the families, to the constituents, to the House ofRepresentatives. We know what's right and what's wrong."
Republicans held the board open for more than four hours, waiting for the Democrats who chose not to vote to change their mind. They invoked "Rule 32," which requires members to stay in their seats indefinitely. They repeatedly ran down the list of Democratic members who weren't voting to ask if they changed their mind. When the first vote failed 67-14, with 26 Democrats not voting and two Democrats absent, they tried again; reconsidering the vote and keeping the board open with the hopes that they could come up with the necessary 73 votes.


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