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LANSING — Tea party conservative lawmakers Reps. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, and Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, are no longer representatives in the Michigan House.
After a marathon session of the House — which began at noon Thursday and ended around 4:30 a.m. Friday — Courser resigned and Gamrat was expelled by a 91-12 vote of the House. Gamrat’s expulsion puts her in the history books as the fourth sitting representative to be removed from the Legislature by a vote of the body.
Courser submitted a letter of resignation at 3:12 a.m. as the House prepared to vote for a third time on a resolution to expel him. Gamrat refused to resign, and an expulsion resolution booting her from the Legislature passed shortly after 4 a.m. She was immediately escorted off the House floor by House security, and state police escorted her from the building, reported MLive.com.
The Courser resolution was facing a third vote, after Democrats refused to cast a “yea” or “nay” vote on the resolution, and in violation of the House rules.
“My fellow Democrats are simply asking for a full, accountable and transparent investigation before we take an action that has only occurred a few times in the history of this state,” said Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, in a statement. The statement was released Thursday night at about 6:30 p.m. “We believe it is not too much to ask for the select committee to exercise due diligence, follow due process and have a complete picture of what happened, and who knew about it and when, before taking such an extreme step as expulsion. The actions of the two representatives were indeed egregious, and removing them from office may be warranted. However, the purpose of the investigation, and whatever action the committee deemed appropriate, was supposed to restore the faith and trust of the public to this body. When the committee members struck relevant testimony from the record, disallowed the subpoena of material witnesses and refused to initiate an independent investigation, they are leaving questions unanswered raising doubt in the outcome. We cannot vote for expulsion until we have a full picture of the issue at hand.”
As the night wore on, GOP leaders struck a deal with Democrats which allowed the expulsion process to play out. That deal means that the whole affair will now be investigated by both the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General’s office.
The two were targeted after the Detroit News published audio secretly recorded by a former staffer of their office. The recordings revealed a bizarre plot — hatched by Courser — to send out an email accusing Courser of being a “porn addicted bisexual pervert.” The goal of the email, Courser explained in one recording, was to “inoculate the herd” with a “controlled burn” — in other words, mislead voters into disbelieving he and Gamrat were having an extramarital affair.
Within hours of the story appearing in the Detroit News, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter ordered the House Business Office to investigate the pair for potential violations of House rules and misuse of taxpayer resources.
That report was released last week and found the conservative duo had engaged in “deceptive, deceitful and outright dishonest conduct.”
Courser had been defiant since the going so far as to accuse the GOP of conducting a “political hit” against him and Gamrat after the release of the House Business Office report last week. Most political observers expected him to cling to his office until the House expelled him.
For her part Gamrat initially claimed no involvement in the bizarre email, but audio recordings showed that was likely untrue. She submitted a letter Tuesday to the House Special Committee admitting that the House Business Office findings were accurate. Thursday, when the Committee voted out an expulsion resolution, rather than a censure resolution, Gamrat claimed she had a deal with GOP leadership to accept responsibility and get censured. She said she does not agree with the House Business Office findings, despite saying otherwise in testimony before the Special Committee and under oath.
Both House seats will have special elections to fulfill the remainder of the terms of office of each lawmaker, who face reelection in 2016.