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State Senator Jon Erpenbach joins us now. He"s one of Wisconsin"s 14 Democratic state senators who remain outside of Wisconsin to deny Republicans the quorum they need to pass that union-stripping bill.
It"s good to see you again, Senator. Thank you for your time.
STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, there was this reporting late last night and early this morning that Democrats were going to head back to Wisconsin. This whole thing was about to come to an end.
What was--what was your reaction to that reporting?
ERPENBACH: Well, when I first saw the headline I was a little surprised. And then I read the quotes from Senator Miller. And, basically, he hasn"t said anything that we haven"t been saying since we"ve been down here. We"re ready to go back.
But that"s not necessarily up to us. As I"ve told you before, Rachel, it"s up to the Republicans to sit down and try and come to resolution over this.
So, I talked to Senator Miller last night. And we were actually very frustrated last Thursday night because we thought there was some sort of headway with Governor Walker. And then the Senate Republicans, Thursday afternoon, passed a resolution saying if we crossed state lines, we"d be arrested, which really isn"t obviously incentive for us to go back.
So, we were a little surprised that we were getting signs from Walker administration that maybe we"re going to move forward, but from the Senate Republicans, obviously, taking a big step back. So, there"s a little frustration on that which led to the article on Sunday night.
But we are where we were from the very beginning. We"re taking it very much day by day. We continue to reach out. Senator Miller sent a letter to Governor Walker today and to Senator Fitzgerald, asking them to come on down and sit down with us and let"s talk things over.
Obviously, the response we got back wasn"t the warmest. So, we continue to stay here and reach out.
MADDOW: In terms of how this might end, what would you need to hear from Governor Walker or from the Republicans in order to get you back? What are you waiting to hear?
ERPENBACH: Yes. Now, that"s a really good question. First of all, we would like to hear that they are honest and sincere in efforts to try and bring resolution to this. We"ve been very upfront about why we"re here and we"ve been very upfront about what we would like to see changed either in the budget repair bill or the big state budget that"s starting to come up now as well.
There"s a couple different ways for us to get out of here. First of all, you can just take an amendment that the state assembly had on the floor the other day to restore a lot of what Governor Walker wanted to take away from collective bargaining. The other option which seems to be the stumbling block right now is collective bargaining as a whole. They"re not budging, we"re not budging.
So, take out that language in the budget repair bill, put it in the biennial budget, and we can debate that for the next three months. And that would be done through the normal process, couple of committee hearings -- people would certainly be able to weigh in on it, and it would be done in the light of day. And most importantly, it would be done face to face.
MADDOW: Governor Walker is conceding that on his own side of the aisle, he may have lost one of the budget repair bill votes he was counting from on Republican Senator Dale Schultz. Without Senator Schultz"s vote, Republicans can only stand to lose two other Republican Senate votes and still pass this thing as far as I understand it.
MADDOW: Do you think that one way that this might resolve is that somebody--that your caucus to the Democratic side might persuade two other Republicans to vote against what Walker is doing?
ERPENBACH: Well, there"s actually a couple of things going on back home. Obviously, we"ve all seen the polls. You"ve seen the left-leaning, the middle of the road polls and then the right-leaning polls and they"re all saying the same, that Governor Walker should take the compromise. Most conservative poll came out on Sunday saying 67 percent of people in Wisconsin supported that.
Now, if you are a Senate Republican and you"ve taken a look at all the recall efforts going on around the state of Wisconsin right now and you"re seeing how quickly the Democratic side are actually gathering up signatures, you take the poll results, you take the recall information that you have, and that might nudge you to say, look, we need to--we need to bring resolution to this right away.
There are some moderate members of the caucus. And just to be fair here, we get along with them very well outside of the capitol mostly, but we get along with them fine. I know that as a fact, if collective bargaining were taken out and voted on separately, it would never pass the Senate. And there"d be five or six or seven Republicans who would vote against it.
So, obviously, it"s causing them a great deal of concern. They seem to be under more pressure than we do, based on the comments of Senator Fitzgerald today at the press conference. So, again, we"re going to do what we"ve been doing every day, Rachel. We are saying here. We"re going to reach out. We"re going to try and come to some sort of compromise over this so we can come home and vote.
MADDOW: One last detail I wanted to ask you about, just because you seem closer to these things than I am, even though neither of us are in Wisconsin--and that is that we are hearing rumors that there"s going to be a tractor motorcade on Saturday at the state capitol, a tractor-cade. Are you hearing these rumors?
ERPENBACH: Yes, I am. As a matter of fact, we have, as you know, Rachel, we have a strong ag community in the state of Wisconsin--very politically involved on both sides of the aisle. And they are going to be joining the protesters apparently on Saturday and bringing their combines and their tractors down to the square and showing up in full force.
And that"s great to see. Obviously, ag is an extremely important industry in the state of Wisconsin. And we need to keep that as strong as we possibly can. And they are certainly supporting our efforts and supporting more importantly the protesters" efforts down in Madison. So, it"s going to be pretty cool thing to see. And if you"re not doing anything next Saturday, Rachel, it might worth you while to hop a plane and head out to Madison.
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MADDOW: I hear you. I hear you.
ERPENBACH: Bring a windbreaker with your name it. OK.
MADDOW: I am taking it under consideration, sir.
Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach in exile in Chicago--thank you for your time tonight, again.
ERPENBACH: All right. Thanks.
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