We now mark Day 5 of democracy in Wisconsin being held hostage by the “Badger 14” senators who, refusing to attend the current legislative session and carry out their duty to debate and vote on legislative proposals, fled the state on February 17.
Here’s an update on recent news and blog coverage available on the web (as of 2:45 p.m. today). As before, this post will be updated throughout the day as warranted. As always, comments and news tips sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, are appreciated and are answered.
Yesterday Amanda Turkel of the Huffington Post published a widely circulated article on the vow of the “Badger 14” senators to remain in Illinois and continue to hold the legislative process hostage until Gov. Walker agrees to negotiate with them. Here. The article includes extensive quotes from Senator Tim Carpenter who, as exclusively reported on this blog last night, on Saturday managed to “make an idiot of himself” in e-mails he sent to an exceedingly polite Wisconsin citizen who wrote asking him and the other senators to return to Wisconsin to debate and vote on the pending legislation –going so far as to call the Governor “Great Dictator Walker.”
In the Huffington Post article, Sen. Carpenter expresses great frustration at Gov. Walker’s flat refusal to negotiate with hostage-takers, and he vows that he and the other senators will remain in legislative exile until the Governor capitulates:
We’ll be here until Gov. Walker decides that he wants to talk. He’s just hard-lined — will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls. In a democracy, I thought we were supposed to talk. But the thing is, he’s been a dictator, and just basically said this is the only thing. No amendments, and it’s going to be that way.
Yesterday the “Badger 14” senators appeared on camera on ABC News, “caucusing” while huddled in the stairwell of a Chicago hotel. Video here. The report focused on Sen. Julie Lassa, six months pregnant with her third child, who (0:44 into the video) stated on behalf of the group: “For all of us who left the state, we believe we’re standing up for democracy.” The video then cuts to an interview of Gov. Walker stating: “Democracy’s not about hiding out in another state. It’s about showing up here in the capitol and making the case there.”
Some context on whether these senators are acting on their own volition is provided in an essay published this morning, “Why Obama and the Dems Blundered in Wisconsin,” by Richard Pollock (Washington, D.C., editor of Pajamas Media), which depicts the senators as mere pawns of an inherently flawed strategy by the Obama Administration to interfere in Wisconsin politics in hopes of achieving national political advantage. Here. For pursuing such a strategy, even liberal commentators are attacking Obama’s operatives for “hypocrisy on an epic scale” in contesting the efforts of Gov. Walker, the winner in a democratic election, to achive comparatively “modest” reforms. Here. The Obama operatives’ actions have moved one Arizona citizen, Thomas Purcell, to write an toughly worded open letter to his representatives in Congress. Here.
This morning Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, laying out his hopes of working with moderate Republicans to “put pressure on the Governor.” Summary here; video here and here. (9:48 p.m update: WKBT report on this interview here.) Similar hopes were expressed by other senators in interviews reported in today’s New York Times and Washington Times. Several senators were interviewed this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America. Summary here; video here.
Also this morning Gov. Walker’s office issued this press release giving “specific examples to show how collective bargaining fiscally impacts government,” and the Governor appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America emphasizing that the Budget Repair Act currently pending before the Legislature is necessary to deal with “a massive deficit.” Summary and video available here and here. A report on his interview with the Heritage Foundation, released this morning, is available here. A summary of Gov. Walker’s position was posted on HotAir.com this morning, here.
As to tactical considerations, David Dayen of FireDogLake has a detailed analysis this morning documenting that this coming Friday or Saturday may well constitute a deadline in terms of the state’s ability to restructure about $100 million of debt for the current fiscal year. Here (relying heavily on yesterday’s Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel article by Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, here). Thus it appears that if the “Badger 14” senators hold out longer than this, they will become responsible for plunging the state $100 million deeper into the hole for the current fiscal year — something which will hardly increase their standing among the Wisconsin citizenry if it comes to pass.
The option of petitioning for a recall of some of the senators, a topic discussed in detail on this blog in a post yesterday, here, based on a lengthy ChicagoBoyz blog post, continues to be in the news. In addition to the sources cited earlier, yesterday there was commentary on such matters hosted on the FreeRepublic website, here. Also on Sunday the website of WTAQ radio had an update on recall efforts directed toward Sen. Jim Holperin and Sen. Robert Wirch. Here.
Finally, some updates the activitives of particular senators which have not yet been noted on this blog:
A Feb. 18 radio interview of Sen. Spencer Coggs, on WLS’s Roe and Roeper show, is available here.
In an interview by Don Walker published in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel on Feb. 18, here, Sen. Coggs “joked that the Senate Democrats were ‘refugees from Wisconsin.’ He said the group had split up, but were still in Illinois. ‘We are in different locations and we move frequently,’ Coggs said.”
On Saturday, Sen. Erpenbach was interviewed on CBS’s The Early Show and contended that the Republicans’ pending budget proposal “has torn the state of Wisconsin apart.” Here. A colleague, Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir, in an interview with the Daily Caller has responded that this view was “overly exaggerated,” observing: “While there may be some loud protesters around the capitol all week, the silent majority, who are working during the week, agree with the Governor’s plan.” Here.
On Saturday, Sen. Erpenbach also issued a brief written statement and appeared on National Public Radio to explain why he fled the state (audio and transcript available here). He also granted an interview late in the afternoon to the Capital Times, with his remarks published on its blog here.
On Sunday, Sen. Erpenbach appeared on Milwaukee WISN’s Up Front program, vowing that he and the other 14 senators will stay away “as long as it takes” for the Governor to capitulate. Video here. Associated Press report here.
Sen. Erpenbach also granted an interview to Carolyn Briggs in the Univ. of Wisconsin student newspaper, the Badger Herald, for an article published Sunday, here. He explained the circumstances which led to his sudden flight from the state, and indicated that as far as when he and the others would return, “the ball is in Walker’s court.”
Today Common Cause issued a statement that, as originally scheduled, Sen. Erpenbach “will participate this evening in the Common Cause in Wisconsin reform forum being held this evening from 6:30 to 8:00 PM on the 4th floor of the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison” — albeit not in person; rather, he will “call in and participate by phone from ‘an undisclosed location in Illinois.'” Here.
On Feb. 17, Sen. Holperin was interviewed by Candy Crowley on CNN. The video and transcript are here. Asked how the governor and his colleagues could coax him back to work, he said: “Well, we’re not that far from the capitol. We are at an undisclosed location, but we could arrive in a very short time. I think if the governor would agree to just meet and talk with public employee employees, I’m not at liberty to speak for all Democrats, but I think for myself, that would be something that would need to be done.”
Sen. Holperin appeared to moderate his position in an interview by Don Walker published in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel on Feb. 18, here. “Asked if one option included coming back sooner than later, Holperin said: ‘We will be back eventually. We won’t obstruct the vote forever.'”
Most recently, today an audio interview with Sen. Holperin by Greg Jarrett was posted on the website of WGN radio, here.
The Feb. 18 letter by Sen. Minority Leader Mark Miller to Governor Walker is available here.
Sen. Taylor has been extremely active on Twitter since fleeing the capitol on February 17. Her full Twitter stream is available here: http://twitter.com/sentaylor. A few samples:
“Hitler busted unions just like Walker!”
“‘shame’ on Walker for doing the same thing as HITLER!”
“I’m not in the senate chamber! I’m working for the people. Power to the PEOPLE”
“LIKE HITLER in 1933 – WALKER is busting unions. Refuses to sit down and talk to the PEOPLE”
“It Matters What We’re Doing, Not Where We Are”
“THE WISCONSIN FIGHTING 14!!!!!”
(Retweet) “Everyone, seriously, tomorrow is going to be nuts and all eyes are on us, don’t fuck this up.”
“Egypt is with us!”
“racial and nasty names every day to me and other senators.”
“Governor please come to the table”
Update (8:09 p.m.): On his Lakeshore Laments blog today, here, Kevin Binversie has a critical take on yesterday’s Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel article by Bill Glauber (here), who Binversie notes was “able to meet with members of the AWOL ‘Democratic 14’ in a hotel conference room somewhere in Illinois and get others on the phone,” though he wouldn’t “say where they are . . . .” Much of the article focus on what life on the run is like for the senators — as Binversie puts it, it’s
a human interest story. We discover Carpenter is wandering Illinois looking like your typical lame, suburban dad in a Wisconsin sweatshirt and Brewers cap. (An odd look for a gay man perhaps?) Also, we discover Milwaukee’s Chris Larson shops at K-Mart when his choices are limited, and Julie Lassa of Stevens Point is a maternal time bomb. (She’s due to deliver her third child in the next couple months.)
We also discover Madison’s Fred Risser — who roamed the State Capitol when dinosaurs ruled the Earth — recalls with great fondness the origins of the crisis, since he was in the State Assembly in 1959 when then-Governor Gaylord Nelson pushed through the ability for government employees to collectively bargain.
Finally, it didn’t need a Journal Sentinel profile piece for us to know Middleton’s Jon Erpenbach’s a media whore. According to the article, he’s holed up somewhere in Chicago and taking media requests from all takers and could appear on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” sometime this week.
What’s intriguing about the piece is you find out the decision to flee clearly was made on either Wednesday night or Thursday morning after the 12-4 vote in Joint Finance. This decision was made out of desperation because they knew they were going to lose the actual vote in the State Legislature.
Update (8:26 p.m.): On the lighter side, co-blogger “Shoebox” of No Runny Eggs offers up a new collection of milk cartons featuring photos of “Badger 14” senators, sent in by a reader (Mike), here.
Update (8:31 p.m.): Also on the lighter side, and definitely not to be missed (unforgiveably this blog has overlooked it until now) is the (mock?) WISenDems Twitter feed recounting the exploits of the “Badger 14” sentators starting on Feb. 17, the day they took flight. Here (h/t Jim Geraghty at the National Review’s Campaign Spot blog, in a post entitled, “The Most Dramatic Bus Journey Since ‘Speed’“; if you’re interested in Geraghty’s more serious analysis of events in Wisconsin, you can view a video of his Feb. 18 discussion with Cam Edwards here).
Update (8:43 p.m.): In a press conference this afternoon, Governor Walker told the “Badger 14” senators that “it’s time to come home”: “You’ve had your time. It’s time to come home. Come back home. Make your case; make your argument. Do what the people of the state of Wisconsin elected you to do.” Early press coverage here and here; YouTube video here. Note that Gov. Walker is only asking the senators to do what Sen. Tim Cullen explicitly promised to do by Feb. 19: return to the capitol after the senators had made their point, and had ensured sufficient time for people to find out what’s in the bill, if they care to do so. See here. Sen. Cullen is already two days overdue on his promise to return and end the current impasse. (9:32 p.m. update: a local Fox affiliate has posted video of a followup interview of Gov. Walker, here; the Washington Times has posted an article on the continuing standoff, here.)
Update (8:55 p.m.): One possible downside for the senators, and their constituents, of the senators not coming back promptly is highlighted by an article by Matthew Boyle published on the Daily Caller website this evening. It reports that “[ne]wly elected state Sen. Leah Vukmir, a Tea Party favorite,” says that “the Senate could separate the removal of collective bargaining rights for state and local employees from the spending bill if the Democrats refuse to return. Vukmir said she’s not yet sure if Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will do so, but said it’s a possibility. ‘All the collective bargaining stuff could be done as a separate bill,’ Vukmir said in a phone interview. ‘I’m not certain if we’re going to do that at this point.’”
Update (9:14 p.m.): Fresh off his weekend spent bullying an exceedingly polite Wisconsin citizen who had e-mailed him, and calling the Governor “Great Dictator Walker” (see here), today Senator Tim Carpenter indicated that he regards his actions in holding the Wisconsin legislative process hostage as a joking matter. In an audio interview with TMJ4.com, available here, Sen. Carpenter claimed that he couldn’t get back to the capitol because of car problems. “Unfortunately, I must have a dead battery or something like that,” he said. Riffing off a joke about Sarah Palin, when asked where in Illinois he was, Sen. Carpenter said: “Well, I can look out my window and see Wisconsin. But not the Soviet Union — just Wisconsin.” (It’s not surprising that he couldn’t see the Soviet Union, as it ceased to exist in 1991! At least Sarah Palin knew that the nation adjacent to Alaska is now called Russia.)
Update (9:19 p.m.): In an interview today with KUWS radio, Sen. Bob Jauch complained about how exhausting his self-imposed legislative exile has been, commenting: “My wife traveled to northern Illinois to bring me a suitcase full of clothes and bring me some cash. It’s been very hard. This is not fun. I’m a problem solver.” Apparently without realizing the irony of the statement, he concluded: “I want government to work.”
Update (9:29 p.m.): Posted on the Wall Street Journal website this evening, apparently for publication in tomorrow’s print edition, is an article by Kris Maher and Douglas Belkin sketching the mechanics of how the “Badger 14” senators fled the state on Feb. 17, and giving a flavor of what “life on the lam” is like for them. Here.
Update (9:43 p.m.): Wausau’s WAOW television station has both a video report and a longer written report supplying an update on the efforts (previously recounted on this blog) to recall Sen. Jim Holperin. Included is an interview of his constituent spearheading the effort, Kim Simac, who filed papers on Friday to create an exploratory committee to recall Sen. Holperin. Among other things, she remarked that Sen. Holperin “needs to get to his desk and to get to work.” Here. Most interestingly, and apparently breaking the media embargo on the senators’ exact location, WOAW reports: “The 14 Democratic Senators who fled the state are assumed to be just over the border in Harvard, Illinois,” about 85 miles southeast of Madison (Google map here).
Update (9:57 p.m.): On the Huffington Post, Sam Stein devotes an article to a question which by this point must be on the minds of the “Badger 14” senators: “Would Democrats Have Been Better Off Letting Scott Walker’s Bill Pass?” Here.