The Wall Street Journal thought they had a scoop when they took a statement from Wisconsin’s Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller and weaved it into a story about an end to the standoff.
Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators [...]
Sen. Mark Miller said he and his fellow Democrats intend to let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair” bill, which includes the proposed limits on public unions’ collective-bargaining rights. The bill, which had been blocked because the missing Democrats were needed for the Senate to have enough members present to vote on the bill, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.
He said he thinks recent polls showing voter discontent with Mr. Walker over limits on bargaining rights have been “disastrous” for the governor and Republicans and give Democrats more leverage to seek changes in a broader two-year budget bill Mr. Walker proposed Tuesday.
The ink wasn’t dry on this article before the State Senators quickly denied it. Sen. Chris Larson has a Facebook post up that reads, in part, “Sen. Miller’s comments are taken out of context in the Wall Street Journal article just released. Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table.” More important, the only two Senators quoted in the WSJ story told WisPolitics that the story was a bit of a stretch.
Sen. Bob Jauch, who along with Sen. Tim Cullen has been part of the negotiations with the governor’s staff, said Dems have known all along they would have to return to Wisconsin at some point. That position hasn’t changed in the past two weeks, and he said Dems want to force their Republican colleagues to show the public whether they stand with the governor or with workers when it comes to the proposed changes [...]
Cullen declined comment, saying Miller didn’t speak with him before making the comments, while Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who’s been the lead contact with media during the standoff, said Dems are not preparing to return.
Miller spokesman Mike Browne insisted there was nothing really new in Miller’s comments and that Dems continue trying to keep the lines of communication open in what has been a fluid situation.
“The bottom line is that Democrats would still like to see a reasonable negotiated settlement,” Browne said.
Miller’s spokesman’s full statement reflects the attitudes of Wisconsin’s Fab 14 since they left the state Feb. 17. They want to return to negotiate. The Governor won’t go that route. So, they remain in Illinois. Specifically:
Democrats remain hopeful that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans will, in the near future, listen to the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who believe they should come to the negotiating table in good faith to reach an agreement that resolves our fiscal issues without taking away worker rights and without hurting programs that help provide health insurance for working families and prescription drugs for seniors.
I’ve been saying since I was in Madison that even the protesters recognize that the Senate Democrats won’t stay out of the state forever. They also recognize that only those moderate Republicans in the Senate can resolve this impasse. I’m sure most of them are hearing back home what this Assemblyman from Eau Claire heard over the weekend:
Representative Warren Petryk was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity rally in support of Governor Walker Saturday morning. But he didn’t make it there.
The 93rd Assembly District Republican was stopped in a nearby parking lot, as protesters asked him questions. He didn’t make it inside the Eau Claire hotel in time for the rally.
Emotions ran high in that parking lot. One retired school teacher was visibly upset, as she told Petryk she felt workers’ rights were being taking away without proper debate.
“I felt like he listened to me,” said Rozanna Bejin, of Eau Claire, afterward. “He said he was going to call Scott Walker. My request was that Petryk talk to people in the assembly and the senate, all of his colleagues, to people sit down and talk to the 14 Democratic Senators who are in Illinois.”
Negotiation, in fact, is favored by a 2-1 margin from Wisconsinites. That’s how they’d prefer to wrap up this situation, with a solution that does not strip away workers’ rights. Afterward, there will be opportunities for making Scott Walker and his allies pay for tearing apart the state.
But it’s pretty clear this WSJ report is bogus. The two sides are far apart, and as long as that’s the case, the Senate Dems aren’t coming back.