Yesterday prominent conservative talk-show host Vicki McKenna (born, ironically, in Rockford, Illinois, a favored hideout of the Wisconsin “Badger 14” senators) interviewed Wisconsin state Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).
Senator Vukmir addressed the very real adverse consequences that will be suffered by Wisconsin citizens, and particularly by the public employees who will lose their jobs, if the senators do not soon return. She has great respect for several of the absent senators and she holds out hope that at least one of them will muster the political courage necessary to return and head off these adverse consquences. Audio clip below. Partial transcript:
We think that once they realize that this is actually going to unfold, tomorrow or Monday — I mean, there are 1,500 employees, real people with real lives, who will lose their jobs if we cannot refinance our debt in the short term, in this budget-repair bill. And, so, this is not a game. And we have said this all along. It is what Governor Walker said in the very beginning. This is about protecting and preserving jobs. And by their lack of action, by them leaving the state, shirking their responsibilities, they are potentialy putting in harm’s way individuals and famlies who will now be losing jobs. And I think that’s unconscionable. You’ve left the building. You have opted not to participate in the process, and now you’re going to be hurting people.
If they were to be here, if they were to be part of the debate and to realize that we have taken into account many, many of the concerns that were raised during the hearings about this particular bill, they would realize that this bill is going to get our state on the right track. It’s going to prevent layoffs of teachers. It’s going to prevent layoffs of state workers, prevent layoffs of countless other municipal employees. And that is why we’re going down this path. So we hope they will be coming back tomorrow. If not, the next step has to happen.
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Dragging somebody in, and forcing them to sit in their seat to vote, isn’t really how the process should unfold. I would like to to believe — and I have high regard for several of the members, and I hope they have regard for the body that we have been given the privilege to represent — that they would not have to come in kicking and screaming, that they would realize that at some point they need to participate in the proess. And so I’m still going to hold out, with some optimism, that there will be a senator or two who will realize that they can no longer run away from the problem that is right here in the capitol.
One hopes that Senator Tim Cullen, at minimum, will soon present the needed profile in courage. As previously noted by this blog (here), very early on Senator Cullen went on record as supporting only a very brief period of the senators’ absence from the capitol. On February 19, just two days into the odyssey of the “Badger 14,” Senator Cullen stated, in an interview with Frank Schultz of the Janesville Gazette, that he supported only “one more day of holding out”: “‘I think we made our point, and I think it does give people another day or so to find out what’s in the bill, if they care to find out,’ Cullen said.”
Indeed, from the very beginning Senator Cullen had been dubious of the idea of the senators leaving the capitol to hold the legislative process hostage. In an interview with WKBT at the capitol on February 17, just before he and the other senators left the state, Senator Cullen stated he “wasn’t part of the decision” made by the Democrat caucus to leave the capitol, and he didn’t understand the point of the effort: “I asked what the endgame was, and I didn’t get an answer. That’s what concerns me. . . . I don’t understand the endgame.” Video of that interview on WKBT’s website here; YouTube version below.