It's been 18 days since Wisconsin Democrats put their entire Senate caucus on a bus and drove them to an out-of-state bunker at the Best Western in Rockford, Illinois. They claim to have fled in the interests of the people of Wisconsin, but rather than representing them on the floor of the Senate and debating Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill on its merits, they choose to flout democracy (again) and avoid a vote by virtue of absenteeism. At a time when Wisconsin needs them most, Democrats are passing the time in Illinois.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Democrats had finally decided to return to Madison to debate the budget bill. The logic was that though this would allow the bill to pass, it would be so unpopular with the public that its passage would deal a devastating blow to Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) rightly denounced the idea as ludicrous:
"If you think this is a bad bill for Republicans, why didn't you stand up in the chamber and debate us about it three weeks ago?" said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. "People think it's absolutely ridiculous that these 14 senators have not been in Wisconsin for three weeks."
Apparently that resounded with Democrats, as Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D) has changed his mind, instead requesting a meeting at the state line between Republicans and their absentee colleagues. This is all very surreal.
Sen. Fitzgerald fired back in an epic letter to Sen. Miller today. Note the address line:
March 7, 2011
Sen. Mark Miller
Parts Unknown, IL
Dear Senator Miller,
Thank you for your hand-delivered letter with an offer to meet, in Illinois, about the business and future direction of Wisconsin.
Let’s set aside how bizarre that is for a moment.
As you know, this legislation is designed to finally balance the state budget, prevent layoffs and create jobs in the real world. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed or underemployed Wisconsinites, and at least 1,500 more whose jobs are in the balance because of your media stunt. We all deserve better than this.
In the meantime, members of your caucus have been meeting with the governor’s staff, talking to the media, trying to find a way back to Madison, and contradicting your message in public. In case you don’t remember, you were present yourself at one of those meetings with the governor’s staff. Your grasp of reality, and control of your caucus as minority leader, continues to amaze me.
As you know, your opportunity to compromise and amend the bill was on the floor of the state Senate. As you know, you forfeited that right and opportunity when you decided to flee the state instead of doing your job.
Your stubbornness in trying to ignore the last election and protect the broken status quo is truly shameful. While we wait for you and your colleagues to finally show up, Senate Republicans continue to stand ready to do the job we were elected to do, here in Wisconsin. I hope you are enjoying your vacation, and your vacation from reality.
Senate Majority Leader
The PDF of the letter is here. Sen. Fitzgerald has joined Gov. Walker in achieving hero status in the national conservative movement. These guys have steel in their spines.