Republicans have spent $542K in public funds to challenge Whitmer's orders

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have spent about $542,000 to sue Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate and House released the figure to a liberal advocacy group, Progress Michigan, late last week on the same day the state Supreme Court ruled against the governor in a similar lawsuit to the Legislature's. 

The Whitmer administration has quickly reinstituted a mask requirement and gathering limits under a law that's not an issue in the legal challenges. 

The $542,000 in public money, split evenly between the House and Senate, has been used to pay attorneys at Bush Seyferth, a Troy-based law firm.

RELATED: Michigan attorney says 'burn your masks' and forget COVID emergency orders after state Supreme Court decision

GOP lawmakers have long criticized Whitmer's handling of the outbreak, though the public has backed her in polling. Republicans contend that she should have eased a lockdown earlier and that they should have a say in orders underlying her declaration of an emergency.

In a 4-3 decision, the high court declared unconstitutional a 1945 law that underpins her executive orders and ruled 7-0 that she needed legislative approval to extend the emergency and orders beyond April 30.

“Since this pandemic started, the Republicans really have focused more time, energy and taxpayer dollars on fighting against public health protections than they have working to protect the people of Michigan,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

Messages seeking comment, including additional details on the payments and the contract process, were left with spokespeople for GOP legislative leaders.