Michigan Senate won’t block Hertel as new state health director

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LANSING — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday narrowly supported Elizabeth Hertel as state health director, backing a key figure in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in recent months.

The Republican-led chamber endorsed the Democratic governor’s appointee 18-16, with Democrats and some GOP senators voting yes.

Hertel took over the state Department of Health and Human Services in January following the abrupt resignation of Robert Gordon — her boss — and has gradually loosened restrictions designed to curb COVID-19.

Many Republicans opposed Hertel, voicing long-running frustrations that Whitmer used the health department to keep intact coronavirus orders after the Michigan Supreme Court last fall struck down an emergency-powers law that underpinned her edicts. But they did not have enough votes to reject Hertel by Tuesday’s deadline.

The Senate also fell one vote short of 19 votes to pass a motion affirming the nominee. But her appointment will stand.

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