Throughout the day, we’ve seen statements that show some weakness among State Senate Republicans in Wisconsin to stick with their fearless leader, Gov. Scott “On a Mission from God” Walker. Earlier in the day I mentioned Rob Cowles’ nudge toward compromise. There have been others. Sen. Luther Olsen, the subject of mass protests in his home district, has also said today that he favors some negotiation with Senate Democrats. Republican Sen. Dale Schultz has already as much as said he wants a compromise. And Sen. Dan Kapanke, the subject of a recall effort, reiterated support for the bill but also said that collective bargaining is among issues “still on the table.”
Now, Sen. Bob Jauch (D) has delivered the hammer blow. Jauch, one of the Senate Democrats who has been involved in negotiations, released a long statement on his role in the talks, where he let slip that a half-dozen Republicans or more are wavering on the bill. Only three are needed to shift the advantage to Democrats.
Since Governor Walker introduced this legislation, I have talked with Republican lawmakers and former Thompson Cabinet officials every day to seek a pathway to find common ground. Those conversations revealed that 6 or 7 Republican Senators hated the collective bargaining provisions but felt pressured by Governor Walker to vote for the bill.
The reality is that there is a strong majority of legislators who don’t want to get rid of collective bargaining but voted against the wishes of the constituents because they were compelled to vote with Governor Walker. Recently Representative Stone, a Republican candidate for Milwaukee County Executive, admitted that he voted for the budget repair bill but did not agree with getting rid of collective bargaining. I have spoken with a number of Republican representatives who voted for the bill and are hoping the Senate will adopt compromise language.
For weeks, Republicans have sought to create dissession among Senate Democrats, to pit them against one another. This is one of the first instances of Senate Democrats fighting back. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) claims that his caucus remains unified – after a two-hour meeting today, it should be noted. But Fitzgerald – or Scott Walker – has basically not been trustworthy throughout this process, making statements about what Democratic Senators have told him that they later flatly deny. Indeed, in the course of this statement, Jauch says that “Governor Walker’s statement that Senator Cullen and I were working for an agreement so that he and I and a couple more legislators could come back to Wisconsin was an absolute lie.”
It’s Jauch’s word against Fitzgerald’s at this point. But based on everything out there, I’d argue that Senate Republicans are wilting under the pressure.
…an interesting postscript: out of nowhere today, the State Senate pulled back their $100 fine against members of the body who missed floor sessions. Republicans made this decision and they did so without debate. They’re actually making it easier on Democrats to stay out of the state longer with this move.