By SCOTT BAUER
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is apologizing for calling three fellow Republicans “terrorists” over their negotiations on the state budget with Gov. Scott Walker.
Vos made the comment in an interview Sunday that aired on the WISN-TV show “”Up Front with Mike Gousha.” He was referring to Republican Sens. Duey Stroebel, Steve Nass and Chris Kapenga.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called the comment “beyond inappropriate” on Monday and demanded Vos apologize. Nass demanded an apology as well, noting he served in the Wisconsin Air National Guard for 33 years.
Vos issued a news release early Monday afternoon saying he regrets using the word terrorist and apologized. He says he has been working to restore civility to the Assembly and his comment goes against the guidelines he has set for the chamber.
But he went on to say Stroebel, Nass and Kapenga can’t work within their caucus and questioned whether legislative leaders will have to run everything by “a few rogue holdouts.”
Vos has been openly critical of the lawmakers’ tactics, previously saying they were holding the budget hostage by devising their own deal outside of one worked on by Republican leadership and Walker.
Vos in late September texted his displeasure to Walker over how the budget vetoes were being handled, telling him he was “very disappointed in the way I’ve been treated” and “I won’t forget this.”
But he went a step further in the Sunday interview.
“For the individual rogue senators to say, ‘I’ve been involved in this process the entire time, but I’m going to put my foot down and I’m not going to vote for it unless I get that,’ that is wrong,” Vos said. “Frankly, I wish Governor Walker wouldn’t have negotiated with terrorists.”
Gousha followed up asking Vos if he was calling those senators terrorists.
“Yeah, that’s what they are,” Vos said. “Because you don’t hold somebody hostage for your own personal needs. You negotiate, you give and you take.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the comment was “beyond inappropriate” and called for Vos to apologize immediately. Nass also said on Monday that Vos should apologize and stop “inappropriate behaviors that have become all-to-common from him this entire session.”
“Negotiating vetoes is as much a part of the budget process as anything else, and the speaker’s comments demonstrate a weak grasp on the events that transpired in the hours before the budget was passed on the Senate floor,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Nass said that calling him and the other two senators terrorists was “beyond outrageous” especially when the term was applied over “simple public-policy disagreements.” Nass called it a “shallow political ploy” to re-ignite budget disagreements to thwart conservative proposals in the fall.
Stroebel said people expect more from their leaders than “these kind of personal attacks.”
“Brave men and women in uniform combat terrorists every day,” Stroebel said in a statement. “Terrorists use violence in an effort to destroy our American way-of-life. To imply fellow Republican legislators are terrorists is the type of hyperbolic rhetoric Wisconsinites are tired of hearing.”
A spokesman for the governor, Tom Evenson, said in a statement that, “It’s unacceptable the word was used to describe good public servants at a time when our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorism around the world.”
Kapenga did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The deal the three senators struck with Walker resulted in him vetoing several parts of the budget they had objected to. Some of the vetoes made the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage requirement take effect immediately rather than in a year, placed limits on the days when school districts can seek referendum votes and did away with a $2.5 million study on road tolling.