Following the Wisconsin state Senate's passage of a bill that will end most collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin, Fox & Friends devoted several segments to celebrating the bill's passage. The co-hosts interviewed two Wisconsin GOP senators but did not host any union supporters or Wisconsin Democratic legislators.
WI Senate Passes Bill Limiting Collective Bargaining Rights Of Public Union Employees
WI Senate GOP Uses Parliamentary Procedure To Pass Collective Bargaining Bill Without Democrats. On March 9, Wisconsin Senate Republicans passed a bill that eliminates most collective bargaining rights for public union employees. The bill was then sent to a Senate-Assembly conference committee. From the Wisconsin State Journal:
In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Republicans used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to overcome a three-week stalemate with Democrats and pass an amended version of the governor's controversial budget repair bill.
With a crowd of protesters chanting outside their chambers, Senators approved Gov. Scott Walker's bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees. The new bill removes fiscal elements of the proposal but still curbs collective bargaining and increases employee payments in pension and health benefits. The changes would amount to an approximate 8 percent pay cut for public workers.
After the session, Senate Republicans scattered, leaving no one to explain how they managed to pass components of the bill that seemed to have a fiscal impact, including changes in pensions and benefits, without the 20 senators needed to vote on fiscal matters. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he had consulted with the Legislature's attorneys and “every item in tonight's bill follows the letter of the law.”
The move ended a bizarre two-and-a-half hour legislative sprint in which the Senate hastily gaveled in and sent the measure to a Senate-Assembly conference committee, which typically works out differences between similar bills passed by the two houses. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/10/11]
Minority Leader Barca Says Proceedings Were “A Violation Of Law.” During the vote on the bill, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said that the proceedings were in violation of Wisconsin's open meeting law, which requires 24 hours' notice before a public meeting:
The 6 p.m. conference committee lasted just minutes, and featured an angry speech by Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, the only Democratic member present, who accused the Republicans of violating the state's open meeting law and “trampling on democracy.”
“Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law,” he said, referring to the short notice given for the meeting.
Typically, 24 hours' notice is required for a public meeting. There are exceptions, but it was not clear Wednesday that the conference committee met those standards.
Attorney Robert Dreps, an expert in media and political law, said exceptions can be made if notice is “impossible or impractical.”
“It raises a lot of serious questions,” he said. “I don't think they can satisfy the standard for giving such short notice for that committee meeting.”
Senate Chief Clerk Robert Marchant said such notice is not needed when the Senate is in special session, but Dreps said he knew of no such exemption. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/10/11]
Fox & Friends Cheers Bill's Passage As “Fantastic” ; Dismisses Opponents, Critics
Doocy: If The WI Democrats Don't Like What Happened In WI, “Too Bad.” The co-hosts devoted several segments of the March 10 edition of Fox & Friends to cheering the passage of the bill in the Wisconsin Senate. At the beginning of the show, co-host Steve Doocy dismissed Democrats' concerns that Wednesday's proceedings may have violated Wisconsin's open meeting law. From the show:
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Well, we said that yesterday that, at least, I did, that I thought it was favorable to the governor that those e-mails were released, because it showed he was coming off his mark a little bit. But guess what? Now the Democrats are going to say, “Look, this was unconstitutional, what the Republicans did.” They are claiming now it's a violation of Wisconsin's open meeting law because they only got two hours' notice.
DOOCY: Well, too bad. They left their jobs three weeks ago and then the Republicans gave them a chance, gave them a chance, “Come on back. We're going to take your parking, take your paycheck.” Nothing. Understandably, the Democrats in Wisconsin are furious. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11]
Fox & Friends Hosted WI GOP Sen. Scott Fitzgerald To Discuss The WI Republicans' Vote. Later in the show, Doocy and co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed the Wisconsin Senate President Scott Fitzgerald (R). The co-hosts encouraged Fitzgerald to deride both protesters and Democratic legislators and encouraged him to promote, without evidence, the claim that the Obama administration is secretly orchestrating recall efforts underway in Wisconsin. Recall efforts are reportedly underway for both Republican and Democratic members of the Wisconsin legislature. From the broadcast:
KILMEADE: Joining us right now by the phone is Wisconsin Republican State Senate President Scott Fitzgerald. Senator Fitzgerald, this is a stunner. Tell me about the legal maneuvers that led to this move that has 14 Democrats in Illinois scratching their head, saying, “How did we lose? ”
FITZGERALD: Well, as part of the bill, there were certain items that triggered this three-fifths quorum that was needed to move a bill that would otherwise be considered fiscal. And what we did was, we removed those items from the bill so we could pass the legislation forward. We did it in a conference committee.
DOOCY: And I understand the Democrats are already calling foul. They said, “Oh, you had to give us 24 hours' notice.”
FITZGERALD: No, that's not true at all. As a matter of fact, the two-hour notice that we actually did give them is more than sufficient in special session. They know it. And everybody in the Capitol knows it.
KILMEADE: Senator, how long did you have this in your pocket? Because it caught almost everyone not named Charles Krauthammer by surprise.
FITZGERALD: Well, we knew this was available to us, and so did the Democrats. For the last, you know, three weeks, we had been discussing it. It really was about -- we weren't sure if labor was pulling the strings on the Democrats in Chicago, and I think as of yesterday, everybody assumed that they weren't coming back unless labor let them. So we started to talk about this and consider this. It does mean that some of the items that we wanted to pass through the legislature, because they're an intricate part of the governor's budget, didn't make it. And that was one of the reasons we didn't jump at this early on.
DOOCY: You were just mentioning how big labor was pulling some of the strings. Now, there is an effort on the part of a number of Democrats to have a number of Republicans recalled. And I understand you feel that somebody could be pulling those strings, and that could be the White House.
FITZGERALD: Absolutely. I mean, some of the individuals that filed petitions against our Republican senators have direct links to the Obama team in Chicago, and it doesn't surprise me because Wisconsin is certainly one of the states that's targeted, obviously, in the presidential election in 2012, so this is a big blow to labor in Wisconsin. And, unfortunately, I think, yeah, there is some involvement there.
DOOCY: Speaking of that powder keg of a building, we're looking at some of the pictures from last night. I understand when they wouldn't -- when the officers wouldn't let people in, somehow people started going through the window. That's not good.
FITZGERALD: No. It's -- it's absolutely chaos there. It's been like that for three weeks. One of the disappointing things, I think, about my Democrat colleagues in the Senate --
DOOCY: There's the window.
FITZGERALD: -- is they didn't think to really care about the environment that not only we were working in, but law enforcement and even their own staff. They didn't seem to care about that. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11, WisconsinReporter.com, 3/2/11]
Fox & Friends Interviews A Second WI GOP State Senator. Later in the show, the co-hosts interviewed a second Republican Wisconsin state senator, Randy Hopper. The co-hosts again encouraged a GOP state senator to claim that “the White House may have somehow been trying to synchronize this recall effort.” They also did not challenge Hopper's claims that GOP Wisconsin senators were “willing to negotiate” and that the bill is “in the best interest of the working people of Wisconsin” and is about “balancing the budget,” not breaking public unions. From the broadcast:
KILMEADE: How long did you know you had this card to play, and do you think Democrats knew you had this card to play all along?
HOPPER: Well, you know what, we've been trying -- I've tried personally and our leadership tried repeatedly to reach the people in Illinois, to reach those AWOL senators, and try to get them to come back and to do their job, and they were unwilling to do it. And we need to move the state forward. I know that people in my caucus talked about -- this wasn't worth political posturing to risk 1,500, and even thousands of family-supporting jobs in the state.
DOOCY: Senator, who is pulling the strings? We had the Senate majority leader with us about an hour or so ago, and he said that big labor was trying to keep the Democrats in Illinois, and the White House may have somehow been trying to synchronize this recall effort to recall a number of Republican senators.
HOPPER: Well, I can tell you in my district, the person that's heading up the recall effort in my district, was doing some work on behalf of either the administration or big labor in Colorado prior to moving into my district to do my recall. You know, the recalls were something that they used to threaten members of my caucus, to change their vote on this bill. They used intimidation in terms of physical threats to try to get us to change our votes, and I just have so much respect for members of our colleagues that stood in front of that and said, “We're going to do what's right for the people of Wisconsin.”
DOOCY: Sure. Well, if the White House is involved, and big labor is involved, would that say to you they're trying to make this an issue for 2012?
HOPPER: I think there is absolutely no question this is an issue for 2012. People from Organizing for America have been running the protest in Madison for quite some time now, and I think that there is no question that the president has some involvement in this, I don't know what, but listen, we need to do what's in the best interest of the working people of Wisconsin and that's what we've done.
KILMEADE: Senator, was this about breaking the union or balancing the budget?
HOPPER: This is about balancing the budget. If -- I mean, everything about this bill is about fiscal components, whether it's the $159,000 bus driver in Madison, whether it's $68 million that WEAC [Wisconsin Education Association Council], the teachers' union, forces school districts to spend, their health care plans on WEAC-owned health plans, you know, it's entirely about fiscally balancing our budget.
KILMEADE: But you had to strip the fiscal stuff out of it in order to be able to pass it.
HOPPER: Actually everything is fiscal. Everything that we passed last night still has fiscal components. What we did do is -- we can't allocate those funds. We can't appropriate the funds that we save. So even though those things are very fiscal, we can't spend the money until one of the Democrats decides to come back and do their job. But what we can start doing is we can start capturing the savings. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11]
Bolling: “I Was In The Car, Fist Pumping” When I Heard Fitzgerald's Fox & Friends Interview; “That's Fantastic What They Did In WI.” Later in the show, the co-hosts invited Fox Business host Eric Bolling on the air. At one point, Bolling said, “By the way, that interview with Scott Fitzgerald this morning on the phone -- I was in the car fist pumping. That is fantastic what they did there.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/10/11]