News & Election Videos

Wisconsin Bond Deadline Nears, State Senate Democrats Still

Greta Van Susteren, Newt Gingrich



Date: February 24, 2011>

Time: 22:00:00>

Tran: 022401cb.260>

Type: Show>

Head: Wisconsin Bond Deadline Nears, State Senate Democrats Still


Sect: News; Domestic>

Byline: Greta Van Susteren, Newt Gingrich>

Guest: Scott Fitzgerald, Gov. Mitch Daniels>

Spec: Politics; Labor; Budget; Wisconsin; Indiana>

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight: Well, maybe they wish they had microchipped them! Wisconsin Republicans still cannot find those 14 missing Democratic senators. Now, Republicans sure are trying. They're even sending state troopers to their homes to knock on their doors. But so far, no luck.In the meantime, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker doesn't sound very happy.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: The days of passing the buck on from one budget to the next, from one generation to the next, stop, and they stop now!


VAN SUSTEREN: And Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is jumping into his own fight, using such terms as disgraceful, embarrassing. Now, what is the Indiana governor talking about? Well, the Indiana governor is here, and he's going to tell you himself just minutes from now.

But first, back to Wisconsin, where Wisconsin senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. So where are those Democratic senators? I take it they have not crossed the border back into Wisconsin yet, as far as you know.

FITZGERALD: No. I had a short conversation with the minority leader, Mark Miller, today, and he basically told me they're not coming back any time soon. But I am hopeful that with the passage of the bill in the assembly sometime this evening, that that'll create some momentum and they'll see that they need to come back and do their job.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, I have a copy of a letter that you sent to Senator Miller. I might add that the address is Senator Mark Miller at undisclosed location, comma, Illinois.


VAN SUSTEREN: And you make a reference...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... in here. You say he's throwing a tantrum. So it sounds like there's some sharp barbs going back and forth.

FITZGERALD: Yes, you know, I think we're at the point now where I'm really becoming concerned because the institution of the Wisconsin state senate is being trashed. This is not part of our senate rule book that you deny quorum. And as that continues, I think it's going to make it much more difficult for us to patch this together and pull the institution back together with what these 14 state senators have done to us.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, tomorrow, as I understand it, is a drop-dead date in terms of refinancing the bonds of Wisconsin. If those state senators don't show up, there's not going to be a vote. You don't have a quorum. So what happens then?

FITZGERALD: Governor Walker is going to have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a different strategy on that. That's a concern because as he reported and as he certainly laid out today, that there are going to be some lay-offs as a result of that. And quite honestly, I think some of the Democrats don't understand that or they're in denial on that. But the fact of the matter is, we still have to move forward with a budget, and the governor is going to announce that on Tuesday.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you mentioned lay-offs. The Wisconsin State Journal has published an article staying that the Husterford (ph) school board sent a lay-off notice to your wife, who's a counselor (ph) in the district. So she's a target?


VAN SUSTEREN: Has she actually gotten that notice?

FITZGERALD: Well, I hope not. I mean, I -- yes, well, sure, that's happening across the state. I hope my wife, Lisa (ph), is not a target. But beyond that, you know, that is happening in many districts throughout the state as a kind of a precautionary measure, I think you could say at this point -- ultimately, I think. But on Tuesday, we're going to see exactly what the governor's plan is. But it doesn't take the pressure off of this budget repair bill that needs to be completed. And the only way that's going to happen is if one of these Democrat senators decides to come back and do their job.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it seems to me they might be galvanized tonight because it was also reported that the University of Wisconsin lacrosse teachers, professors, have voted to unionize, 249 to 37, to show support. So it seems like there's a lot of union momentum that's keeping them out of the state at this point.

FITZGERALD: Yes, I'm not sure. I mean, it's more about whether or not they really want to adhere to the idea that the Wisconsin state senate is an institution that should function. What they're trying to do is shut down government, obviously. And I -- you know, I have a lot of respect for what the Republicans and the Democrats in the assembly are doing now. They're up to 50-plus hours of debate. They've offered over 100 amendments to that bill. That's the way it's supposed to work. That's the way it's supposed to be, not with this cowardly act that's been committed by these 14 Democrat senators.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. And of course, we'll be watching. Thank you, sir.

FITZGERALD: Thanks, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe On the Record is as scary as that bill in Wisconsin because those 14 Wisconsin state senators are running from us, too. Now, we at On the Record have been repeatedly calling all the Wisconsin Democratic state senators today who are on the run and hiding out in Illinois, but no one would join us tonight. Apparently, though -- good news -- they like our colleague, Martha MacCallum, much better. Earlier today, State Senator Jon Erpenbach joined Martha, and Martha asked him why he skipped town.


JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: Well, it's not cowardice at all. We ran over state lines because the head of the state patrol happens to be the father of the majority leader and the speaker in the state assembly in Wisconsin. We also ran across state lines because we wanted to give people...

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST, AMERICA'S NEWSROOM : So what does -- I don't understand.

ERPENBACH: We wanted...

MACCALLUM: What's the relevance of that?

ERPENBACH: We wanted to give people more time so they could take a look at what's in this budget proposal so everybody knows what Governor Walker was trying to do within about five days to make it become law. Again, I can't stress this enough. We want to go home. We don't want to be where we are right now. We'd rather be home.

MACCALLUM: So go home!

ERPENBACH: But in the meantime, until we hear from Governor Walker that he's taken a very serious look in the fact that all the public employees have given him every single penny he's asked for in exchange for getting rid of the language that takes away workers' rights, we don't have a choice. It's totally up to Governor Walker how long this is going to take. And again, we'd rather be home.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, disgraceful and embarrassing -- those are the biting words Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is directing straight at Indiana's fleeing Democrats. They have fleeing Democrats, as well. Thirty-eight Indiana Democrats fled Indiana to duck voting on the governor's right to work bill. But now that bill is off the table. So why are those Democrats still on the lam?

The governor of Indiana has some ideas. Indiana governor Mitch Daniels went On the Record.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, so I understand some Democrats have left your state, some elected officials, because a right to work bill that was proposed in Indiana -- is that right to work bill still on the table?

DANIELS: No. It's dead for this session and -- but it -- a subject that's legitimate for discussion. It'll probably be studied this year probably in a formal study committee. But no, it's not going further this year.

VAN SUSTEREN: So why don't they come home? If that's why they left and now it's off the table, they can -- I guess they can hit the road later if they don't want to, but why don't they come home now?

DANIELS: Maybe they're having a good time. I don't know. Maybe they -- these folks may feel well at home in Illinois, where they spend money they don't have and tax people for the difference and let their infrastructure crumble, and so forth. But that's what Indiana was looking like when these people were in charge. But we'd like them to come back eventually and do the people's business here.

There was a little bait and switch, Greta. They went AWOL over the private sector right to work proposal that some legislators had advanced. But even as it was clear it wasn't going to happen, suddenly, they produced a list of other demands. We're supposed to kill a whole lot of other bills, which include things like a no tax budget and an education reform package that President Obama would be voting for if he were a member of our general assembly.

So we're not doing that, and you know, they're going to have to do their duty at some point. You know, if you're not prepared to respect the democratic process, say your piece, cast your votes, offer your amendments, and if you don't succeed, go home and take it to the voters -- you're are not prepared to do that, you shouldn't have run for office in the first place.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, on a slightly different topic, explain something to me. In 2005, when you became governor, by executive order, you did away with collective bargaining for state employees. That's the subject of the feud in the state of Wisconsin. And I'm curious why you were able to do it by executive order, number one. And number two, what impact it has had on the state of Indiana, whether that's been good or bad economically.

DANIELS: I was able to do it because it had been put in place by a Democratic predecessor many years before by executive order. The Indiana legislature had never authorized collective bargaining or the forced collection of dues from state employees. And so that's why I was able to strike it down. It's precisely what Scott Walker is trying to do in Madison right now.

And the answer to the second question -- it has been a profoundly positive event. We've not only saved hundreds of millions of dollars, but of equal importance, we're providing services vastly better -- I can prove it to you -- because we were freed of a collective bargaining arrangement that basically said you couldn't move a Xerox machine from one room to the other without, you know, the union's permission.

And so we immediately began merging agencies, in some cases dividing them, consolidating things like IT and HR and procurement, and in some cases, outsourcing to the private sector, saving buckets of money and improving service delivery to Hoosiers. It's been an unqualified success, and I hope he has a chance to do the same.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In Ohio yesterday, you were quoted as saying in reference to the public employee unions that they are the privileged elite. Do you want a do-over on that, or do you stand by that?

DANIELS: No, I stand by that. You know, the average public employee is paid a more than the taxpayer who pays his salary. The case of federal employees, it's 50 percent more, and that's just the beginning. The benefits are vastly higher in many -- or most cases than they are in the private sector. And the job security is in most cases nearly total.

So you know, I'm not against this. In many cases, I'd like to see certain public employees, like our best teachers, paid more. But you know, the idea that these folks are somehow the underdogs in this situation is exactly the reverse of reality. As you know, a huge -- the biggest special interest in America, the biggest PACs and donors to our politics are the government unions, who are funding politicians who then quite cooperatively turn around and vote for more money, more benefits, more job security and higher pensions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, well, we're going to be watching your state, wondering if you get your politicians back home. We're watching Wisconsin, as well. And I do hope you'll come back and certainly come back very soon. Thank you, sir.

DANIELS: Thanks a lot.


VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is here. He will tell you what he thinks about the unrest seizing Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Are the governors making smart, strategic decisions or committing giant blunder? Newt Gingrich is next.

If you think this fight in Wisconsin has nothing to do with you, you are dead wrong! It has everything to do with you! Dick Morris will tell you why minutes from now.

Plus, Rush Limbaugh -- he's on a roll! He wants to know what Democrats would say if Governor Sarah Palin were running the White House the same way as President Obama. Rush Limbaugh says he knows. And as expected, he isn't staying quiet about it. You'll hear directly from Rush straight ahead.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker doing right thing or not? His budget plan is rattling unions and sent Democrats running across state lines to Illinois as protesters continue to swarm Madison and seize the state capitol building. Now, everyone is asking, Did the governor make the right move? Many states across America are broke. So should other states follow the Wisconsin governor's lead, or try something else?

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us. He and his wife, Callista, are authors of the new book Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous With Destiny.

Good evening, Mr. Speaker. And I know you've written an op-ed piece in support of Governor Walker. But I'm just curious. What should he be doing tonight? Because tomorrow's supposedly a drop-dead date on this bonding, and the Democrats say they're not coming home.

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he should do whatever he has to technically to pay for the bonding and blame the Democrats for the carnage that that's going to cause. They are forcing this crisis. You got to make sure they own the responsibility.

But you have to put Scott Walker in context. After having been elected three times as county executive of the largest government in the state, Milwaukee County, he campaigned for a year-and-a-half on a very clear program. Nothing he's doing is new. Everything he's doing was in his platform. It's what the people voted on.

The amazing thing is the Republicans gained seats in the senate, gained seats in the house. There are no new elected freshmen Democrats. The governor himself won decisively. And the Democrats, having lost the argument with the people -- this is not Republican-Democrat. The people of Wisconsin elected a 60 percent Republican majority in the house, a virtually 60 percent Republican majority in the senate and a Republican governor. And the governor's now executing -- this seems to be a shock to Democrats. He's actually doing what he campaigned on.

The contrast with President Obama breaking his word this week is startling. I mean, Scott Walker is doing what he said he would do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

GINGRICH: So this is a question of whether government of the people will work.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, how...

GINGRICH: He ought to be very calm and just say -- go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: How -- how -- how do you -- I mean, how do you know this high-stakes fight is not going to backfire on him? Because I'll tell you what he has to be concerned about, is that apparently, the cost if they don't refinance this bond tomorrow, if they -- it could be a $30 million hit to the state, which is not chump change at all, $30 million. And the unions have conceded on the pension, conceded on the health care issue. They just want their collective bargaining rights.

So I mean, this -- is it not conceivable that the people of Wisconsin think that he's being a spoiler, and to save the collective bargaining issue for another day, maybe even next week for all I know, so that they don't take this $30 million hit.

GINGRICH: So -- so now -- but under that theory, next week, if he brings it back up, the Democrats leave the state again. I mean, either it...


GINGRICH: ... turns out -- you can -- well, so either it turns out you can...


GINGRICH: ... blackmail the government or you can't.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's not any worse off tonight. He's not -- I mean, if they leave next week, at least he -- in the -- I mean, that $30 million, you know, is, you know, for this little -- for this...

GINGRICH: My advice...


GINGRICH: My advice to the governor would be, figure out how to take the $30 million out in a way which is the most painful for the Democrats and say, Look, you did this. I don't know -- you know, you decided this. You refused to be adults. You refused to do your job. You refused to show up for work. So why should anybody else in the state take the penalty?

Second, I think the citizens of those 14 senate districts ought to start recall petitions to bring back the -- I mean, if they don't want to do their job, let's have a new election and hire somebody who wants to do their job.

But this idea that you can lose an election and turn around and decide to blackmail the whole rest of the state on behalf of your interest groups and we're supposed to think this is reasonable behavior? I think the governor should educate the state. He should talk to the state.

But remember, the real reason the unions are terrified is that the governor wants the unions to have to voluntarily collect the money. He wants to quit collecting the money through the state. And the unions know that if their members figure out...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know -- but...

GINGRICH: ... how many dollars a year they're actually paying, they won't pay.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I know, but -- but I mean, the governor told me that he thought it was workers' rights and that he was doing it for the workers. But frankly, the workers that we walked through -- we were in the capitol yesterday. The workers don't want his help on the workers' rights. So I mean, I'm not so sure that...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... that he's been square on that one.

GINGRICH: OK. I mean, you walked through the capitol where the people the unions have most fired up and have most enthusiastic -- it's a simple question. The unions are so confident they represent the workers, why are they afraid to allow the workers to voluntarily pay their dues? Why are they insisting that the government has to deduct their dues? The reason is they know a substantial percent of their members will rapidly quit paying their dues. And in fact, the dues in some cases are bigger than the cost of the pension and health care changes.

But there's a second point, which you just had a great guest on, and that's Governor Mitch Daniels. As he pointed out, the worst thing about the way the government employee unions operate is that they create work rules and inefficiencies and protection of mediocrity and blocking effective management. And that's the other thing that, as a former local official, Governor Walker is trying to make sure that all of the local towns, all the local school boards, all the local counties also have an ability to manage their deficits.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right (INAUDIBLE) I need to take a quick break, Mr. Speaker, but do not leave.

Coming up: The clock is ticking and ticking and ticking. Time is running out right here in Washington. Is it too late to avoid a government shutdown right here in Washington? We're going to ask the speaker in a minute.

Also, the 2012 races are going to be a sizzler! For starters, unions are furious. So will they take their anger out in the next election? Dick Morris will tell you who is going to get clobbered and who will come out on top in 2012. Stay tuned.


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, are we going to have a government shutdown or not this week?

GINGRICH: Well, there's no reason to have a government shutdown. If the Senate majority leader will, in fact, be reasonable, if the president will sign something, there's every reason to believe we could keep the government open. I don't think anybody wants, on the Republican side -- I've not heard any Republican say they want to shut the government down. But they're also not going to give up on principle. They're not going to say, Oh, let's continue gigantic spending, let's not cut anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: So is it going to -- so I mean, look at the tea leaves. I mean, you know Senator Reid and you know President Obama and you know everybody (INAUDIBLE) you know Speaker Boehner. What do you think? I mean, if you were a guessing guy, is there going to be a shutdown?

GINGRICH: If I were guessing, there'll be a series of very, very short extensions, a week, four days, whatever. (INAUDIBLE) pass by unanimous consent in the Senate while they negotiate. But I don't believe that the Republicans in the House are going to back down. Speaker Boehner, in fact, has been increasingly strong in saying the voters decided in 2010 decisively that they want to cut spending. The president failed to show any leadership in his budget, which was, frankly, a repudiation of his State of the Union. And therefore, the Republicans are going to insist on very substantial cuts.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I hate about...

GINGRICH: I think the president's in an awkward position.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I hate about...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... those little short-term continuing resolutions for finances? That's code for saying they haven't done their work. I mean, they should have had this budget a year ago. And we knew the continuing resolution's going to expire on March 4th. And so now if we have more (INAUDIBLE) I mean, they aren't doing the work we paid them to do. I mean, as time marches on. I don't know what's going to, you know, happen in terms of the budget or not.


VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, that's code for not doing their work!

GINGRICH: No, it's not -- it's not a question of doing their work. It's a code for -- this is a really big, historic fight, and they are in the trenches of slugging it out with each other. The Senate Democrats have learned nothing from the election. They want to spend as much as they can for their allies. The president apparently has learned nothing. He wants to spend probably even more than the Senate does. The Republicans in the Senate are willing to cut spending, but they're in the minority. And the Republicans in the House, particularly with the freshmen, feel that they have an absolute obligation to the people who elected them to have a very substantial cut. Remember, for the Tea Parties, $100 billion is the minimum, it's not the maximum.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me switch to Libya. What do you -- what do you make of what the president -- how he's handing this and the secretary of state, how's she handling it?

GINGRICH: It's very hard to comment on a level of confusion and incoherence, where you frankly don't know what they're trying to accomplish. I would hope we are for replacing Gadhafi. I would hope that we are for the peaceful transfer of power. I would hope that we would be encouraging the non-Gadhafi elements of the military to replace Gadhafi. And I would hope that with the Europeans, we would isolate and cut off mercenaries from being hired to come in and kill innocent civilians. I don't sense any clear or compelling strategy by the administration, and I think that is sad and is, frankly, a failure of leadership.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you do?

GINGRICH: I would first of all make quite clear that mercenaries should expect that they'll be held accountable. I would second send signals that we would actively support any effort to replace Gadhafi. And I would third move aggressively to condemn actions by Gadhafi and make him a persona non grata and accelerate the rate at which he and his family have to leave the country.

I think it's totally in the American interest to get rid of a radical dictator who has hated us for over 40 years. You know, we were very tough about our ally, Mubarak. We're always quite willing to say harsh things about people who are pro-American, but we somehow get strangely quiet if it's Iran or North Korea or Libya or someplace -- or Venezuela or Cuba, places that, in fact, people would like to be free. And the U.S. under Obama shows no leadership.

VAN SUSTEREN: We have 30 seconds left. Would you do any military force?

GINGRICH: No, I don't think -- I don't think we need to do any military force. I think that if people in the military in Libya knew that they had friends in America, I think the Libyan military would rapidly decide to replace Gadhafi. All you have to do is convince them the dictator's the past, not the future. Why don't you join the future? And you'd be surprised how rapidly they would shift sides.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And straight ahead: She is sick of playing games! So are the 26 states who are at her side. Tonight, Florida attorney general Pam Bondi fires back at the Justice Department. She's here to go On the Record coming up.

And also, Rush Limbaugh has a list, and he's checking it twice. The focus, two people, Governor Sarah Palin and President Obama. Why does he have these two on a list and together? What's this all about? Rush Limbaugh tells you himself minutes from now.



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