OTR Interviews

AWOL Wis. Democrats vs. Gov. Walker: No Apparently Wiggle Room on Either Side for Compromise

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Ridiculous -- that's what Governor Walker of Wisconsin is calling the latest move by the "Wisconsin 14." Democrats are asking for a Wisconsin-Illinois border summit in an effort to resume stalled negotiations on the state's budget.

They delivered the governor a letter, but he says the senators must return to Wisconsin. The defiant Democrat state senators have been on the run since February 17. State Senator Jon Erpenbach is one of the "Wisconsin 14" and he joins us live from Chicago. Good evening.

STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH, D-WIS.: Hi.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, are we any closer to you guys going back to Wisconsin?

ERPENBACH: I wish we were. I thought we were Thursday afternoon. From what I understand there was movement with the Walker administration, which was good to hear. Then the Senate Republicans passed the resolution saying we could be arrested if we crossed the border. So that was a setback.

So we continue to reach out. The letter the governor call ridiculous today. But it was an honest and sincere effort to sit down and talk to our differences. It was an effort to reach out like we've been doing every day to see if we can keep the lines of communication open.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe I can give you a tip. Try Skype. Talk that way perhaps.

Here is what I don't get. The governor has made it clear he's not budging on this collective bargaining issue minus the salary. State employees could still bargain as to salary. The Democrats say they won't bundle on it either. I don't see where this negotiation is going. Where is the potential wiggle room for both sides so something could be worked out?

ERPENBACH: That's a great question. I think it will come from the Senate Republicans. They've seen the poll up from the left, middle group, the right group, all the poll numbers are consistent. There's five or six Senate Republicans who are not comfortable with the idea of what the governor wants to do with collective bargaining. We've already had one Senate Republican say he's going to vote against the proposal unless it is changed. If there is wiggle room it will probably come from the Senate Republicans.

We are also asking ourselves even if Governor Walker gets his way how can he expect to lead the state in the future as divided as it is? If they do get their way it is not like the issue is going to go away.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I understand it, you didn't want that bill jammed down your throat you wanted a chance to read it. Much like the Republicans felt towards President Obama's health care bill. They did stay and vote. You have now had a chance to review the bill. The entire country now knows about that bill if your reason was you need time to study it, you've had it. Now what is your reason for not going home to vote?

ERPENBACH: A couple of things on the presidential proposal on health care at the federal level, I think they debated that close to a year. In Wisconsin they wanted to debate this in and --

VAN SUSTEREN: No, let me stop. I shouldn't use the stimulus bill. The stimulus -- I'm sorry to -- I think the stimulus is a better -- I'm sorry to interrupt, the stimulus is a better example.

ERPENBACH: We stepped back Thursday morning by that afternoon, there was 25,000 in people Madison. The more people see this, the more we are no longer divided in a clear majority they want changes to be done with this, especially in the collective bargaining piece.

So it's not so much what it is going to take to get us 14 back it is what it is going to take the governor to sell the people in Wisconsin, this is what we need to do. Now he's taking shots at us as opposed to talking about the issues in the mean time we have 60 to 70 percent of the people who want changes made. It is not so much us he has to sell the state this is what needs to be done and he hasn't done it so far.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you for joining us. I don't see anyone budging on this one.

ERPENBACH: Thank you.