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Maddow ‘Scoop’ about ‘Radical’ Republican Actions in Michigan Is False

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Rachel Maddow made a splash yesterday by claiming to report on shocking political events in Michigan.

On her MSNBC show Maddow claimed Republicans are “circumventing Democracy,” in the Michigan state legislature and their actions are “the most radical thing Republicans have done anywhere in the country.” She also accused them of “eliminating democracy and voting rights.”

This story is spreading quickly throughout the liberal blogosphere, including on Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook blog on Washington Post’s website.

Even without the hyperbole, the viewer is left with the distinct impression that Maddow has discovered some fairly sinister action by Michigan Republicans.  So what exactly is she talking about?

Maddow explained that Michigan Republicans have been passing laws with a majority vote and attaching an “emergency” immediate-effect clause that allows those laws to be implemented immediately.

The Michigan Constitution usually requires that laws do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the current legislative session. However, the immediate-effect clause allows bills to become law right away with a two-thirds vote.

Maddow’s outrage stems from the facts that, according her data, 546 out of 566 bills passed by the Republican legislature since January 2011 have included this clause.  She reported this as an unprecedented action and “new in Michigan governance.”

But there’s one huge problem with Maddow’s breaking report – it isn’t accurate.

Michigan Republicans have used the immediate-effect provision, but it  certainly is not something new.  When Democrats controlled the Michigan legislature in 2009, they passed 240 out of 242 laws with the same exact procedure.  In 2010, 365 out of 383 of the bills passed by the Democrat-led House included an immediate-effect clause.

In other words, Democrats had used this same procedure for years in the Michigan legislature.  Their actions were not contested or considered controversial, but now Maddow and other liberals are claiming Republicans are abusing the system doing the very same thing.  Maddow blames Michigan Republicans for doing something that is “radical beyond radical,” but her whole report does not once mention the history of Democrats using this exact same procedure.

Maddow also tries to use the report to hurt Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by mentioning several times that his father, former Michigan George Romney, chaired the state convention where the constitution was amended to include the 90-day rule.

Maddow’s rhetoric in this report wasn’t just hyperbolic, it was completely dishonest.  Democrats played by one set of rules when they controlled the Michigan legislature, and they want to play by a different set now that they are in the minority.

One can argue that the 90-day rule should be enforced differently, but there is nothing controversial about what the Michigan House Republicans have been doing.

The fact that Rachel Maddow spent a majority of her show portraying Michigan Republicans as democracy-opposing radicals for doing something that has been done for years by both parties is exactly why MSNBC has become such an untrustworthy source for factual information.




  1. Singapom says:

    So your attack on the story of the current Michigan majority breaking the State Constitutional law is, in fact, not that that the story isn’t true, but that it IS true, however since it’s been true under previous Democrat administrations, it is not a scoop and shouldn’t matter: have I got that right?

    Perhaps there are other States breaking their Constitutions? Do you know of any? I think the American people deserve the truth…

    1. David Duggan says:

      Apparently your liberal mind wouldn’t allow you to read the whole article:

      “The Michigan Constitution usually requires that laws do not go into effect until 90 days after the end of the current legislative session. However, the immediate-effect clause allows bills to become law right away with a two-thirds vote.”

      1. ScottMMMM says:

        Apparently a conservative mind won’t allow one to see that this “Red” rebuff of Maddow is actually false. Her claims have been 100% accurate. What is “new” and “breaking” about this is that they do not have — cannot possibly have the 2/3 required. The Republican lead legislature is actually breaking the law. So, there! The “author” of this is not smart enough to make the point it tries to imply with the headline. The “author” only knows that the majority of people on here are reading because they want to believe what this site says. Get an education that counts, fool!

  2. Michael says:

    You missed the real point, Mr. Ginzburg. (Maybe you didn’t finish watching the video.) The Michigan Republicans have been invoking the immediate effect clause fraudulently – by gaveling the vote through without actually counting. If they had actually counted, they would have been 12 votes short of the 2/3s needed to pass these bills with “immediate effect”. That is unconstitutional. That is fraudulent. That is undemocratic.

    1. Josh says:

      In the Michigan Senate immediate effect requires a record roll call. In the Michigan House the rules permit immediate effect to be gaveled through. “there is a motion for immediate effect. All in favor please rise. Immediate effect is ordered”. BOTH parties have taken advantage of this rule when they controlled the Michigan House. Maddow’s claim that this is rarely invoked is false. Her claim that it is unique to the last two years is false. Her insinuation that it’s some 50 year old plot by George Romney is tin foil hat stuff.

      Why is it now an issue? Because for the first time ever the GOP has a supermajority in the SENATE and therefore can get IE on bills there without any Democratic support. That makes the long standing tradition of Gaveled through IE in the House a problem for the minority. They have zero leverage now. That’s the reason for the hysteria. What’s being done is no different from what was done before by the Dems, it’s just that there’s no leverage in the Senate anymore.

      1. Allen Ginzburg says:

        Well said, Josh.

      2. Dan says:

        Too bad she actually did mention it on her website

        “ADDING: Michigan Republicans have totaled up the number of bills Democrats passed under immediate effect when they were the majority and it was nearly all of them. What we don’t know yet is whether the Republican minority requested roll call votes and was denied them, which is what Democrats say has been happening to them.”

      3. Greg says:

        I *seriously* doubt the rules of the MI House allow a 2/3 vote required by the state constitution to be graveled through. Even if the rules allow this, then the house rules are not in accordance with the state constitution. In either case, there is a strong case for judicial review.

    2. Boris_Badenoff says:

      Have a tissue, Nancy.

  3. Allen Ginzburg says:

    Sorry Michael, but that argument doesn’t work either. Democrats took the vote the same exact way when they only had 66 votes in the House last sessions. They literally did everything the same way, and are now complaining that R’s are doing it. I am not sure of it violates the constitution, a judge can decide that, but the story here is Maddow’s fake and partisan outage for something that has been done for years.

  4. flen says:

    To the previous commentors- it’s true this procedure may go against the letter and spirit of the law, however the exact same procedure (standing vote, no 2/3) was used when Dens were the majority. For Maddow to omit this from her “scoop” and call it “radical beyond radical beyond radical” is both dishonest and hyperbolic.

  5. Capio says:

    Please actually watch the clip, particularly the final five minutes so you can actually respond intelligibly on the subject. You give U of M a bad name when you “speak” so ignorantly. What an embarrassing attempt at a straw man argument.

  6. Sina Sam says:

    But there’s one huge problem with Maddow’s breaking report – it isn’t accurate.

    I’m confused. Is the entire report inaccurate? No?
    Is the interpretation of the constitution inaccurate? No?
    Is the fact that it was done inaccurate (notwithstanding who did it first) No?
    Are you arguing that the counts are wrong? No?
    I only ask because Ms Maddow’s report was based on all of the above and you have not stated what is inaccurate, just that it had been done before…by Democrats.

  7. Josh says:

    One addendum: a number of Democratic initiatives on tax policy in past sessions which were agreed to by the Republican Senate never would have gotten IE in the House. Part of the compromise process required concessions to get Senate GOP no votes to vote yes on IE (in particular the 2007 tax increases). There’s no way they would have gotten a record roll call immediate effect vote in the then Dem controlled House. Both parties have used this House rule allowing gaveled through IE to their advantage, which is why BOTH parties have preserved and used this rule when they’ve had control. Maddow’s indignation is awfully selective.

    The MI House has had a lot of rules that benefit the majority. For instance, someone offers an amendment. “is there a second?”. People vote. Two yes votes, four no. So two people moved to second the amendment, right? Nope. Plurality voted no, “the amendment is not seconded”. Now that was a Dem tactic, the Republicans have never used it when they had control.

    Or “clear the board”. There’s a vote going on and the majority party is losing? They can move to “clear the board” and have a do over. Both parties use that one while in control.

    I’m not saying I like these tactics. I’m just saying that they’re longstanding, nothing new, and BOTH parties use them.

  8. Ryan T says:

    Oh boob-effin-hoo. Lib whiners are making me sick. They just can’t stop crying.

  9. David Pearce says:

    I agree with Michael here at 2012 04-07 6:32 p.m. They are not counting to see if the 2/3rds vote has been made. Rules are rules. We call ourselves a country ruled by law and not men & women. A rule must be followed or else there is chaos. Please answer this point.

    If Democrats did this too, they deserve looking into as well.

  10. Coral Weaver says:

    Why would anyone but the brain-dead listen to or believe anything that Rachael Maddow says? The issue is fair and honest reporting and if it was treated as such the headline would be that the Republicans have fine-tuned a procedure used during two previous Democrat controlled legislatures.

    1. tyncia says:

      brain dead here-thank God someone is watching the disgrace of what is happening in my fine state of MI-absolutely illegal and unbelievable.

  11. Sir Nigel says:

    Mr. Ginzburg, the University of Michigan called, they want their law degree back.

    Your “logic” in here is non-existent. You say Maddow’s report was false, but then…say that the Republicans are doing *exactly* what she said they were doing…Huh?

    Did that make sense when you typed it? ‘Cause it didn’t when I read it.

  12. Dom says:

    As Michael says, the real question is whether the Republican speaker is (as Maddow alleges) allowing these bills to be passed ‘with immediate effect’ without a proper count of the votes. What is the response from the GOP side to this aspect of the story?

  13. Dan says:

    I don’t think Rachel tried to smear Mitt by mentioning his father. She mentioned him and not in a negative sense, she didn’t have a problem with the original rules that he helped come up with. She has a problem with it being used excessively especially when they don’t actually have the “super majority” votes necessary to enact the bill immediately.

  14. Barry Popik says:

    Rachel Maddow discussed the Michigan law again on Monday’s show. She totally ignored your article, but challenged Republicans to bring on the criticism.

    Write to her. (No one responds. I sent several things that needed correction, so I know.)

    Please get this published at NewsBusters or at Breitbart Big Journalism.

  15. Judith Eliassen says:

    Does the Michigan legislature use those clickers when they vote? If so, you can vote in a second. If everyone is tuned in, I can see how it could be done in three seconds. However, I have a feeling that ALEC is behind this and just trying to push through legislation as fast as it can. How do other states do this?

    I believe that no law can be enforced unless it is promulgated. The people have to know about it. I had no idea that over 500 laws were passed. How can we find out what these were? How are these laws promulgated?

    1. Brian says:

      Who is ALEC?

      All bills are published (“promulgated”) at upon introduction. The Constitution requires bills be held for a certain time in each chamber of the Legislature even though it usually takes much longer to move things through the Legislative process (ie: committee hearings and other procedures) Also on that website you can see every procedural action taken on each individual bill including votes by indivdual legislators.

      Also – the Constitution is silent on HOW immediate effect votes are to be taken. Because the Constitution is silent, a specific format of the vote can’t be unconstitutional. Because immediate effect votes are seen as procedural (meaning they don’t change the substance of the bill to be enacted), most procedural rules, including the Michigan House of Representatives, allow the vote to be taken as a “voice vote.” (Or in this case by asking members in support to stand.) The types of votes will always be determined at the discretion of the chair. Thus, love it or hate it, this isn’t unconstitutional.

      The reality is, there hasn’t been a super majority in the Michigan House of Representatives since the 1970s and BOTH parties have been gaveling on immediate effect just as Republicans are doing now without having a seated super majority.

      So, this isn’t to say that its morally/ethically right or wrong, but IS constitutional, and it IS NOT anything new. Both parties have gaveled on immediate effect to 95%+ of bills without roll call votes and without seated super majorities for decades.

  16. Ryan says:

    Totally missing the boat on this story. Maddow wasn’t upset over the fact that they passed so many bills under immediate action, it is that they passed them under immediate action without actually voting. Unless a dozen people who voted against the bill, voted FOR immediate inaction it doesn’t have the 2/3 majority required. Her issue is that from all appearances they simply refused to take the official count because they didn’t have the votes necessary to actually get immediate implementation.

  17. John says:

    Articles like this are why “The Examiner” is not taken seriously. It is pure political propaganda fluff and everybody knows it. The proof is in the comments here. Even on a openly radical right-wing nut-case publication, the vast majority of the readers completely disagree with the author. The only shred of credibility is allowing real people to post real comments. Thank you for that at least.

    1. Mikie says:

      Right on, John. Consider the author’s closing statement: “The fact that Rachel Maddow spent a majority of her show portraying Michigan Republicans as democracy-opposing radicals for doing something that has been done for years by both parties is exactly why MSNBC has become such an untrustworthy source for factual information.” This continues the Conservative ploy of “just because I say something in a public forum means that it’s true.” What a lot of baloney.

  18. Ms L says:

    Isn’t it more concerning the actual laws that are being passed and not the fact that most of them have taken immediate effect?

  19. Carter Sanders says:

    I saw this presented on Maddow’s show. As many others have said, the “you guys diid it too so it’s fine for us to be unethical” is a pretty weak argument. If we don’t care about principles and just if “our team” is winning by any means necessary, then we will devolve into a country of tribal jingoism, not laws and morals. It’s a very good exercise for people to do their best to attempt to honestly assess if their partisanship is affecting their views. If you think felonies are OK if they committed by your party, then you are an immoral and unethical person.
    A very interesting nuance to this story is that when the Democrats ruled the Michigan house, they didn’t have a super majority in the Senate, so they had to create compromise bills, so the gaveling through was less significant as the bills had already been compromised. Now that the check of the Senate has been removed, this unethical practice has a far greater and more disenfranchising effect. This Mother Jones article does a good job of describing the history.


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