Sept. 16 2015 01:48 PM

Why Sam Singh voted against Gamrat expulsion

To understand how badly Republicans wanted state Rep. Cindy Gamrat expelled from the House, check out the vote.

Only two Republicans, Gamrat, still clueless about how she's perceived by colleagues, and Martin Howrylak, from Troy, voted against the death penalty. Ironically, most of the support she received in the 91-yes/12-no vote came from Democrats, among them East Lansing's Sam Singh.

For Singh, his vote wasn't about Gamrat. Rather it was about the House of Representatives, its past, present and future.

“I'm happy that both of them are going. (Todd Courser resigned last Thursday, avoiding the vote that would have expelled him.) They were an embarrassment to the institution.” he said. “ It's better for the ideas that I value that these extreme Tea Party members are gone.”

But it's the process, precedent and speed of the expulsion drive that bothered Singh.

He laid out his concerns to members of the House in a 13-minute speech last week, reflecting on a historical perspective that largely disappeared with term limits. No one elected to the House really has time to mature in the job, and it showed in the clumsy way leadership handled the Gamrat/Courser mess.

“I love this institution,” Singh said. The first time I came into these chambers was somewhere in 1990. I was an intern for the late Charlie Harrison Jr. And when I came into this institution it was packed with people who had served decades, many of whom I looked up to as heroes and mentors.”

“Today is probably the most important vote that I will take in my entire tenure in the State House of Representatives because the state Constitution gives us the most extreme power, which is to nullify the vote of about 90,000 people. And that is what we have been given the opportunity to do.”

What galled Singh was the rush to judgment by Republican leadership to rid the House of two disruptive, disrespectful and deceitful members who purposely, and it seems gleefully, sought to alienate fellow legislators. According to his former staffer Joshua Cline, Courser put it this way to his staff: “Let's get it straight, boys. We're not here to pass legislation. We're here for the messaging moments and media." Even for Michigan's dysfunctional legislature — STILL NO ROAD BILL — this was outside the bounds.

Singh questioned lack of participation by House members in the recommendations for expulsion as well as the lack of access by members to letters and emails among Courser, Gamrat and Speaker Kevin Cotter's office. And most important, Singh reminded legislators that past expulsions followed criminal investigations and even convictions. This he said has been the precedent of the chamber.

“If you really believe that these people should be expelled, why didn't you go through the criminal part of the investigation. I can't control the actions of the two members. I find them despicable … I find it an embarrassment to the institution. “But,” Singh said, “doing a rushed process is also a disrespect to this institution.”

The demand by Singh and other Democrats for a criminal probe was added to the expulsion resolution after it became obvious to Republicans that the motion would fail without votes from across the aisle. Initially, local Democratic Reps. Andy Schor of East Lansing and Tom Cochran of Mason withheld their support, but they shifted to the yes column after Republicans agreed to request that State Police and the attorney general investigate Courser and Gamrat's actions.

Singh was particularly pointed in his criticism of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's claim that he had been investigating the two legislators.

“We had been asking for a criminal investigation and called on the attorney general to do it. My sense is that he wasn't.” Singh said. “Certainly nobody in the House had an understanding the attorney general's office had started an investigation. To keep it private and then announce it after the Legislature has done its resolution was really disingenuous on his part.”

Certainly, Schuette's actions seem political. He wants to be governor and the right wing of the Republican Party is his base. This included the state's tea party, which spawned both Courser and Gamrat. There is more political risk targeting their acolytes than other entities. Given that Schuette has with great fanfare promoted investigations of compounding pharmacies and propane suppliers, actions that aren't likely to alienate supporters or campaign contributors.

Singh's jabs at fellow House members and Republican leadership, in the odd way that has colored so much of the expulsion drama, were echoed by Gamrat, who seems unable to stop herself once cameras start recording.

It what was billed as a farewell statement, but don't count on it, she reflected on the events leading to her public disgrace.

Starting off contrite, with her attorney by her side, she said, “I never realized how hard and how bad it would be.”

You think!

But she added, and without a touch of irony, “Personally I've become somewhat disillusioned by our government and some of the things I see.”

You think!

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