Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leadership said Monday they believe the Senate Democrats are not unified in the decision to stay in Illinois, although responses from the missing senators do not indicate any difference in opinion.
Walker held a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Majority Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, to address a letter sent by missing Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mark Miller, D-Madison.
Miller sent the letter to Walker and Scott Fitzgerald Monday morning asking them to meet face-to-face near the Illinois-Wisconsin border to discuss the budget repair bill. Miller’s letter said he and other Democrats were willing to compromise.
“I assure you that Democratic State Senators, despite our differences and the vigorous debate we have had, remain ready and willing to find a reasonable compromise,” Miller said in the letter.
However, Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers said in the press conference the missing Senate Democrats did not all follow Miller’s lead and insinuated Miller was actually preventing the more reasonable Democrats from returning and debating the bill.
Scott Fitzgerald said he had spoken with Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, who promised him they would return last Wednesday along with three other senators for a vote.
He said Miller did not know Cullen and Jauch had promised to return to Wisconsin. Walker said Miller had been deliberately stopping the missing senators from coming back to work at the Capitol.
“For the last several weeks both Sen. Fitzgerald and my administration have been reaching out to reasonable senators, many of whom are very interested and willing to come back to the state of Wisconsin, and time and time again the person standing in the way of making that possible is Sen. Mark Miller,” Walker said.
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, did not specifically mention Cullen and Jauch’s meeting with Scott Fitzgerald, but said all meetings so far have not involved any plans to come back to the Capitol. He said the governor held the press conference to break the senators’ unity.
“This press conference was nothing more than a personal attack on Sen. Miller designed to split the caucus,” Risser said. “But it only unified us more. We are 100 percent behind Miller.”
Risser added conversations with Republican leadership did take place, but so far have not involved making plans to return to the Capitol.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the Democrats would stay in Illinois until a compromise is reached.
“We’re not split. We all want to come home but we want to try and get a resolution on this before we do,” Erpenbach said.
Nevertheless, Scott Fitzgerald made it clear that he and other Senate Republicans are not flexible on the budget bill.
“As you know, your opportunity to compromise and amend the bill was on the floor of the state Senate,” Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to Miller sent Monday afternoon. “As you know, you forfeited that right and opportunity when you decided to flee the state instead of doing your job.”