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STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Sure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Have your circumstances materially changed given the order today by your Republican colleagues threatening to have you arrested if you go back home?
ERPENBACH: No, they haven"t, but I think it"s ironic that they"re even talking about contracting out those jobs to come and get us. It"s ridiculous.
Rachel, everything you listed--everything you listed is their counterproposal to our offers to try to come to resolution over the issue of collective bargaining. We"re very serious about this and they come back with going after our parking spots, extortion with our paychecks, what, being arrested, reallocating staff, cutting off copying privileges.
We"ve been very honest and up front as to why we"re here. We"ve been very honest and up front as to what we would like to see happen in order to move us forward. And this is what we get in return.
So, I think they should spend more time on actually concentrating on the problem in Wisconsin as opposed to wasting time coming up with resolution after resolution that doesn"t make any difference.
MADDOW: Just to be clear--I feel like we"ve been assuming this is true, but I should just clarify it with you. The governor is still saying that he will not negotiate, that he will not talk about union-stripping, that it"s not up for discussion, it"s either he does it or else.
ERPENBACH: Right. I mean, that"s the governor"s position. And that seems to be Senator Fitzgerald"s position as well.
But one of the things they could do that would bring resolution to this immediately is take the collective bargaining language out of the budget repair bill, put it in the big budget, which will give us three months to debate this actually face to face, which would be kind of fun--but debate this provision for the next three months while we"re dealing with the state budget.
I mean, that"s resolution right there. We can debate it in the light of day. We can have many hearings on that particular provision in the state budget. And that"s--to me, that"s the best way to do it.
MADDOW: Do you know what you would do if they did, in fact, send some private security or bounty hunters after you? Do you have a plan? Do you guys know how you would deal with that?
ERPENBACH: No. We haven"t seen thought about that. We"ve actually been thinking about how to come to resolution on the budget repair bill, which is what we should be talking about, I think.
But, no--I mean, we haven"t thought about it. I can"t imagine them doing that. To me, the acts that I"ve seen on these resolutions tend to be a little more on the desperate end. I don"t think they have any other ideas as far as to how to move us back and move us forward together as a state.
So, again, they just passed resolution after resolution after resolution. When we are on the phone back with them apparently discussing OK, what about this particular provision or that particular provision? And they get back to us by saying, no, we don"t want to talk about that. We"re just--we"re going to arrest you.
I mean, it doesn"t make any sense at all. And it"s not helping anybody.
MADDOW: I know that some of your Democratic colleagues in the state assembly showed solidarity with the protesters at the capitol by moving their desks outside today on a very cold day. I know just a few hours ago, a judge in Wisconsin ordered protesters out of the capitol.
What"s your--what"s your reaction to that judge"s order?
ERPENBACH: Well, I think--I think the judge"s order is great. They"re opening up the doors to the capitol is an extremely important thing. Obviously, Governor Walker and the administration, they didn"t like what the protesters were saying. So, you shut the doors. That"s what they were trying to do.
So, I"m glad the judge did it. I was kind of curious about the $7.5 million figure that the Department of Administration is coming up with, which is Governor Walker"s department, about the damage being done to the capitol. So, I"m assuming the desks being moved outside will probably add another $3 million to that price tag.
I mean, the things that the Walker administration is coming up to try to get us bag, to try and make us look back is ridiculous. And it takes the focus off the fact that we are deeply divided in the state of Wisconsin over the issue of collective bargaining. That"s what we should be talking about rather than all of this other stuff.
MADDOW: There is a new poll out today by a conservative polling firm that"s called Rasmussen. They tend to produce results that are friendly to Republicans and conservative cause. They asked this question about support for bargaining rights, about a million different ways to Sunday. And still couldn"t find a way to phrase it that produced any substantial support for Governor Walker.
What do you think the impact is of the polls being so against the governor on this? How does that affect the decisions that you 14 are making?
ERPENBACH: Well, it obviously reinforces the fact that what we"re doing is the right thing to do. And it reinforces the fact that everything you"re seeing in Wisconsin about the thousands of people showing up all over the state, they are on the right side of this issue.
Now, if I"m the other side of this issue, I would pass a resolution. I would come up with a different idea. I would come up with some sort of idea to personally pressure state senators to come back across the line and go back to the capitol.
That"s all they"re doing. They"re not looking at the issue. They"re not dealing with the issue. They"re trying to inflict pressure on us individually. And it"s not going to work.
MADDOW: One last point and question to you, Senator, and that is that as far as we understand the situation with legal access to the capitol right now, the latest judge"s ruling is that protesters are kicked out for the night, but they"re allowed to return tomorrow. This seems to be something on which the legal situation continues to evolve. And, in essence, the bottom line is that they have a right to protest at the state capitol and be inside the capitol has been pretty severely crimped.
Is that--is that a central issue for you Democrats while you"re away? I mean, I know you want to be dealing with the budget and collective bargaining. Do you have to deal with the rights to protest and right of assembly as well in order to make sure that this fight is fair?
ERPENBACH: Yes, and every--well, everything the administration has done to--from the metal detectors, to showing IDs, to closing the doors, to blocking off certain entrances, to allowing one person to go in for every four people that came out, that was very upsetting to see.
We all love that building. That building represents everything we are in Wisconsin, whether we agree on issues or disagree on issues. That building has always been open. There"s never been metal detectors in that building, Rachel, ever.
So, obviously, that was really--even after 9/11 there weren"t. So that"s been very, very disturbing to see. At the very least, all the doors are going to be open at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. Everybody will be able to come back to the capital, come inside.
And I wouldn"t be surprised if some state assembly representatives on the Democratic side start holding office hours on the capitol at night. The building needs to be opened as long as people"s business is being conducted there.
And that"s one thing that the Walker administration kind of tended to look the other way on, which was probably the most upsetting thing about all of this.
MADDOW: Wisconsin state senator, Democrat Jon Erpenbach, joining us from an undisclosed location that looks like a lot--looks a lot like--
ERPENBACH: I"m in Chicago. Rachel, I"m in Chicago.
MADDOW: I was going to try to hedge it and say looks like a TV studio in Chicago, but if you want to own up to it, sir.
ERPENBACH: Yes, where am I? Yes, OK.
MADDOW: The cat"s out of the bag. All right. Thank you, Senator.
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