By Alanna Durkin, Associated Press

LANSING (AP) – The top Republican in the Michigan House removed eight Democrats from committees Tuesday because they missed meetings last week amid heightened tension between Republican and Democratic leaders in the chamber.

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Speaker Jase Bolger of Marshall acted after his Democratic counterpart called for the replacement of five Republicans who left a hearing last week on a bill that would end Michigan’s unlimited medical care for people catastrophically injured in car accidents.

“The people who came to the Capitol on Thursday know better than anyone what the proposed changes to no-fault would mean for Michigan residents, but five Republican committee members couldn’t be bothered to listen to them,” House Minority Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills said Friday in a statement about the hearing, which brought hundreds of people to the Capitol, including many people in wheelchairs.

Bolger responded Tuesday by removing any Democrat who missed a committee meeting last week. The changes are effective starting Wednesday.

“Rep. Greimel made a demand that members of one caucus be removed for attendance issues. So in that spirit, Speaker Bolger is holding Minority Leader Greimel’s caucus to his standards,” said Bolger spokesman Ari Adler.

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Bolger is also asking all committee chairs to stop granting excused absences as a matter of course unless committee members have contacted them before the committee meeting. Adler said Democrats are welcome to sit down with Bolger to discuss why they were absent last week and potentially be reinstated to the committee.

Greimel spokeswoman Katie Carey said Bolger is choosing to punish only Democrats, overlooking the four members of the Republican caucus who also missed committee meetings last week.

“Our main concern was to make sure that folks who were severely disabled, who had traveled long distances and many in wheelchairs, were heard,” she said. “And unfortunately the speaker chose to retaliate against Democrats and only Democrats.”

Adler said the Republicans he spoke to about missing committee meetings last week all contacted their committee chairs beforehand.

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