OTR Interviews

GOP Wis. State Senator: We Had to Finish the People's Business on Budget Bill

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 9, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: What is happening inside the capitol right now? Well, let's ask Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman. He joins us live. Senator, where -- are you inside the capitol?

STATE SEN. GLENN GROTHMAN, R-WIS.: No. Right now, I'm in Milwaukee. I had to leave the capitol. We felt it was not safe for Republicans to be in Madison, Wisconsin, tonight.

VAN SUSTEREN: What time did you leave the capitol, how long after the vote?

GROTHMAN: We left the capitol about 15 minutes after the vote under police protection because there was an angry mob. We were told to get out of Madison as quickly as possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if other state Republican senators are in that building now, or even the governor?

GROTHMAN: No, we cleared the politicians, the statesmen out of the building. The state assembly will have to return tomorrow and finish the job.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, where are the Democrats? Have you heard from the Democrats who were in Illinois? Have you gotten any communication from them since this vote?

GROTHMAN: Well, they wouldn't contact me. They haven't contacted any Republicans, as far as I know. Right now, they are claiming they want to come back. But quite frankly, we have been waiting weeks for them to come back. We were hoping they'd come back today on the floor at 11:00 o'clock. One more time, they said, Forget it. We began to be afraid they might drag this thing out for two or three or four months.

We were hearing from Democrats who privately said, "We wish we could be there. We want to be back with our families." But something was keeping them from coming back. My guess it was the stranglehold the public employee unions have on them. So the government unions said, You can't come back. Finally, today, we had to say, Look, we got to finish the people's business. So we split the question and finished the job.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why didn't you do that on February 16th, the day before they left, or February 17th, the day they left? Why didn't you take out that collective bargaining provision and vote on it separate from the "budget repair" bill? Why did you wait until today?

GROTHMAN: Well, it was kind of a package, and we kept being led on by the senate Democrats, who kept telling us or implying they'd be back the next day. We didn't want to get people upset. In a way, it is a package, and it would have been so much nicer if one of those 14 Democrats would have said, We'll be happy to debate it on the floor. Finally, this morning, when one more time, they didn't show up, despite rumors that maybe somebody was going to break ranks, we finally felt, Well, if nobody's going to do it, we got to go ahead without them.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. There's going to be, or there is -- I guess it's an understatement to say there's bad blood tonight in -- between the two sides. But the blood is not going to get any prettier after what happened about an hour ago. So tell me, what happens when the Democrats show up? If they show up tomorrow, how do you work together, or what's going to happen?

GROTHMAN: Well, maybe I think deep down inside, some of these Democrats are going to thank us for allowing them to return to their spouses and children.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know. They seem pretty mad. I don't know if they're going to be thanking you too much because I think they're pretty angry, thinking that you pulled the rug out from underneath them by separating it out and voting on it separately, doing a quick vote. They say that you violated the Open Meetings Act, or something. And then tomorrow is going to be the vote in the assembly, and the governor is going to sign it. I don't think they're going to be thanking you, for some reason.

GROTHMAN: Well, maybe they won't thank us publicly, but we've heard privately some of these Democratic senators wished they were in Wisconsin. But the government unions have just been holding them basically hostage in Illinois. And so they're probably going to be very upset, but they had to know this day was coming. We could have done it all along. I think there was a tremendous amount of patience shown by the senate Republicans and our Majority Leader Fitzgerald in letting -- giving them three weeks to show up. Finally, today, when they didn't show up, what are you going to do?

VAN SUSTEREN: What is this open meeting law? And I realize that I'm going to need to ask the Democrats because I assume I'll get a little bit of a spin from both sides, understandably. But what is this?

GROTHMAN: Well, in any committee hearing or meeting in the Wisconsin state government, it has to be an open meeting and you have to allow the public to know about it. They were given a two-hour notice. Plenty of people knew about the committee hearing, as you could tell by all the people who wanted to get in. It was held in a committee room, which isn't that big of a room, but nevertheless, there were dozens in that room recording what happened. Many opponents of the bill did hear what went on in that committee. And what they're going to claim is that we needed a longer period notice that that hearing was going on. But they had two hours' notice.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is two hours' notice -- I mean, does the rule or the law call for any particular notice period?

GROTHMAN: Right, and they had an appropriate notice. I don't know where Senator Miller was hanging out in Illinois. Two hours is a long ways away. I bet even if Senator Miller really wanted to, he could have been there personally, but he was still in the "I'm not going to have any part of this" mode. Now, after really being outside the building for three weeks, they'll probably turn around and say, Why did you move so quickly?

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me get -- I'm just -- just so I know, the open meeting law -- does have it a particular designated amount of time that you have to give notice, or not?

GROTHMAN: Right. And they had the time. They had a couple hours for Senator Miller...

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the time?

GROTHMAN: ... to run back in.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does it say is the time?

GROTHMAN: He had over two hours to get back. And he -- you know, they got notice around, I believe, 4:00 o'clock. The hearing wasn't even until after 6:00 o'clock, so they had plenty of time to show up. Senator Miller was appointed to this thing. And if he wanted to show up, he had plenty of notice to show up.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, I hope we get a chance to ask one of the Democratic senators about that, as well. Thank you, sir. And of course, we'll be watching.