Debate over Wisconsin protests, in Washington
February 20th, 2011
02:59 PM ET
11 years ago

Debate over Wisconsin protests, in Washington

Washington (CNN) - Congressmen weighed in on the ongoing strikes in Wisconsin Sunday, debating the appropriate involvement of national figures.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the president's recent remarks on the situation "inappropriate."

"I think the president should be focusing on what we're doing in Washington," Graham said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "When the president talks about Wisconsin, I think that is really inappropriate."

Last week President Obama said that the collective bargaining reform proposal seemed "like more of an assault more on unions."

The protests of thousands in Madison started last Monday. Newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is asking legislators to pass a bill to combat a $137 million budget shortfall by slashing collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin public employees. Opponents say the proposed legislation is an attack on workers' rights.

But Graham said Walker is "doing what he campaigned on."

"He said he would ask (for) contributions from government employees for pensions and health care at a level that I think is reasonable," he said.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of neighboring Illinois said everyone should weigh in to ensure decades of efforts to establish workers rights are not destroyed, adding that the protests go "way beyond the discussion of the Wisconsin budget."

"For over 80 years in America we've recognized the rights of our workers to freely gather together, collectively bargain, so that they can have fairness in the workplace and fairness in compensation," Durbin said on NBC. "This governor of Wisconsin is not setting out just to fix a budget; he's setting out to break a union."

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said the events in his state are a microcosm of the budget pressure felt throughout the country.

"It just shows the point, all levels of government have been making empty promises to people," Ryan said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And these governors are telling people the truth. We need to do the same thing in Washington."

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Gov. Walker reiterated his criticism of President Obama, saying he should "stay focused on fixing the federal budget."

"Believe me they've got their hands full," Walker said. "They're far from getting it accomplished in Washington."

Filed under: President Obama • Wisconsin
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Darthcheney

    Since when is it inappropriate for a President to comment on affairs of import to the American people? The gall of the GOP is limitless...

    February 20, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Vicente

    The Geriatric Oppression Party is clearly focussed on breaking the few remaining unions on principle. It has nothing to do with budgets that is misdirection. They want budget concessions and layoffs fine, put that in the bill and leave out all the provisions requiring state workers give up their collective bargaining rights.

    February 20, 2011 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. Mike

    Can't wait until 2012 when the "tea party" discovers that its wave has hit the shore. The average America has been reminded this week that the GOP cares only about advancing corporate interests and reducing the power of the middle class. Obama will soar to victory and he'll bring with him a democratic Congress willing to once again fight for the average Joe. Keep up the fight Wisconsin!!

    February 20, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. Mike

    Judging by the overwhelming nature of the comments on this site, I'd say the tea party is no longer fighting for the "will of the people." The majority of Americans realize that Walker has crossed the line in eliminating collective bargaining rights for everyday middle class American workers. Union employees are willing to make concessions to balance the budget, but that's not enough for the GOP greedy corporate investors. They'd rather take us back to the days of the early 1900's, before unions ensured equality for the working class. They won't stop until they bust the union. Isn't going to happen. I hope CNN is airing comments all day long to show the support for what the people in Wisconsin are doing to fight for worker's rights.

    February 20, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. NVa Native

    Here are the jobs the GOP PROMISED to provide with their "adult leadership"??
    All they have done is advance the culture and social wars! Where are the jobs – or at the least the bills that will produce the jobs!!
    GOP are nothing more thanlobyist liars working only for the wealthy as is their factual history.

    February 20, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Arlen

    This isn't about the budget, so don't let the Kerfluffle distract you. The democrats *and* the unions involved have no problem with the fiscal language of the bill. It's the GOP that is precipitating this crisis by refusing to budge on the collective bargaining language in the bill. It is the language stripping away the rights of *some* of the public sector unions (not all it turns out; the only unions that are affected are the ones that *didn't* endorse Walker's candidacy) that is the sole sticking point in this process.

    February 20, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. pat

    if the unions have agreed to compromise on contributing more to health insurance and other payments to help bring down the deficit, what is the problem that Walker has?

    February 20, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Cathy

    Quite simply, if we ever got truly serious about campaign finance reform it would eliminate or at the very least greatly reduce a lot of the "back scratching" and influence peddling that goes on. When our Bill of Rights and The Constitution were written there were no such things as multi-national corporations throwing millions of dollars into election campaigns. We have become a country of big goverment by big corporations for big corporations.

    February 20, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Kathy

    If that many people are protesting for 6 days, dont the Repubs get that there is a problem? This could all be negotiated but instead the Governor is trying to bully to get his way or no way! He is trying to break the union and we can all see that.

    This can be a dangerous thing if passed. The government will be taking away any rights we have concerning pay. Should anyone who went to college for 4 years work for min. wage? Wasnt college supposed to help people make a good living? That is what the Repubs want, to bring us all down to min. wage. They want the power and the money.

    February 20, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
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