By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Senate Republicans are “pretty wild” with anger over Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to revoke appointments made during a lame-duck legislative session and may not vote on confirming his Cabinet secretaries while the court battle continues, the top Senate Republican said Tuesday.
That stance by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald shows how deep the divide is between the Republicans who control the Legislature and the newly elected governor. The Senate has not acted to confirm any of Evers’ Cabinet picks while courts settle legal issues stemming from a lame-duck session in which Republicans pushed through several measures weakening the powers of Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, also a Democrat.
“I think some of those Cabinet members are going to be in trouble,” Fitzgerald said, declining to name those who may be in a worse spot than others.
Evers’ Cabinet secretaries are working while their confirmations by the Senate are pending. If they are rejected, they would have to quit working.
The fight goes back to the lame-duck session Republicans called for December, after Evers had defeated Gov. Scott Walker but before he took office. Republicans approved 82 of Walker’s appointments, in addition to passing a number of power-stripping laws.
Evers rescinded all of those appointments last month after a court invalidated actions during the lame-duck session as unconstitutional. He re-appointed all but 15 of them. Days later, an appeals court put that ruling on hold, sowing more confusion about the status of the 15 people Evers had not reappointed.
Evers argues the posts are vacant while Republicans say the appointees should be allowed to return to work.
The 3rd District Court of Appeals has not yet responded to a request to clarify whether its ruling meant that the appointments made during the lame-duck session had to be restored.
Those who were not reappointed include Public Service Commissioner Ellen Nowak and University of Wisconsin Regent Scott Beightol. The Evers’ administration denied Nowak access to her building when she tried to return to work. The Regents took a different approach, allowing Beightol and the student Regent Torrey Tiedeman to attend the board’s meeting last week.
Fitzgerald said Tuesday that some senators were ready to reject some of Evers Cabinet appointments in response to his decision to rescind the appointments.
“All I can tell you is people are upset,” Fitzgerald said.
Republicans were particularly angry at Nowak’s being denied entrance to the PSC building, he said. She is the former secretary of the Department of Administration and well known to Republican lawmakers, many of whom are friends of hers, Fitzgerald said.
He said that Nowak was given the “bum’s rush.”
“I can’t wait to see the governor and tell him that,” he said.
Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said although Fitzgerald’s candor was refreshing, “it’s sad to hear that (Republicans) will continue to put politics before people.”
“Republicans have finally acknowledged that their decisions are motivated not by what’s best for Wisconsinites, but by an irrational anger that the people chose a new governor,” Baldauff said.
Fitzgerald spoke to reporters in his office after Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, a Democrat, accused Republicans of not taking action on Evers’ Cabinet picks as payback over the lawsuits related to the lame-duck session.
Fitzgerald quickly adjourned the Senate session after Shilling had spoken, denying other senators the customary time to speak about whatever topic they wish.
“The political theatrics from Republican leaders are getting old,” Shilling said in a statement reacting to Fitzgerald. “The people of Wisconsin elected Gov. Evers’ because they support his plan to fund local schools, fix our roads and expand access to affordable health care. We’ll never be able to address these issues that are important to Wisconsin families as long as obstructionist Republicans insist on picking petty political fights.”