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. Richard S. Russell

    Scott Walker manufactured this so-called "crisis" by giving away tax breaks to his rich corporate puppetmasters, then he uses the "crisis" he created himself to try to screw state workers. If it's appropriate for President Obama to call out oppressors in Egypt and Tunisia, how much MORE so is it to call out heavy-handed oppressors here at home?

    February 20, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. panterazero

    Walker's ambition actually has little to do with his budget. By disallowing deduction of union dues from paychecks, and forcing recertification of unions each year, he hopes to "bust the unions softly" by chipping away at membership. If this strategy goes national, we will have levels of labor unrest not seen since the thirties - and the unions, as our President knows better than most, ARE the power of the Democratic Party. The corporatocracy decided to stick it to the middle class, and went over a line they'll regret crossing.

    February 20, 2011 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. ed

    You working folks down there voted in this "Rich" Gop Chump! Now is the time for people to "wake-up" and smell the coffee the republicans are trying to brew! I have been a union person all my life, Ive never voted Gop! I say to wisconsin folks,"Don,t give an inch for this chump,just dont make a mistake by voting Gop? They are the new "Commies" in this country! Vote him out,and don,t give up,the country is watching you carefully. Were behind you!!!!!!!!!

    February 20, 2011 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. Mike in Texas

    He is President of the United States. He can comment on the situation if he wants. So no President should comment on any event that occurs in the United States but is not a "Federal" matter? He is only giving his opinion. He is not trying intervene like Republicans did with Terri Schiavo.

    February 20, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. Martha in CF

    Now, let's all face the fact, that if President Obama did not address this issue he would be called on it. Inappropriate, I should say not. Why is this any different than Egypt. Should Obama have kept silent on that too.......
    No matter what, the Redumblicans can't say a good word on anything. Their negative attitudes have to stop. I would like to hear something positive that they have put forward–out of mouth.

    February 20, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Obama is, always will be my President

    Maybe President don't have it all right but do any of the rest of the people, Can President Obama speak for the the people in Wisconsin he is their President to. He do not have to stay in the White House, He is the President of the USA. Walker need to show some respect to the people in Wisconsin and to the President of the USA. You must show respect in order to get respect. Where is the 140 million he spent?

    February 20, 2011 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. LiberalMajority

    If you are against labor unions you are against the middle and lower class workers of America, and you will be dealt with.

    February 20, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  8. kyle

    What's goiing on in Wisc, has nothing to do with the budget, it's all about bringing the union to it's knees, and setting them back fifty years.

    February 20, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Janice Smith

    The events in wisonsin are just a beginning as Americans of the "silent majority" begin to step up to what has been a right wing debate for quite some time. The right has renamed the "blue collar" worker as "union" and made them the bad guys of our economic situation just to bust unions for their support of Democrats. When you cut their jobs and send them over seas, don't include them in the debate when you want to cut their salaries and power you will get a fight. The other thing is most of the "blue collar" voted for the Republicans last election so whats the disconnect? It's when they get fed up with being called un-American and unpatriotic because they are part of a union. I ask all media and supporters on both sides to get to the middle and get some compromise so we can move on and help everyone. don't just interview left & right (Democrats & Republicans) wing people but lets get some independants in there for their opinion. We need to hear some contructive opinion not destructive.

    February 20, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  10. vic nashville tn

    Governor Scott Walker gave income tax breaks for companies that relocate to Wisconsin

    Don’t give tax break to create jobs. If there is consumer demand they will expand their business with out help that will create jobs

    Taking money from Middle class (republicans cut) will not create jobs simple let them have the money and spend. Let expand consumer market

    Invest in green technology to create jobs Middle East crisis will raise the gas price

    February 20, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. Mel Johnson

    Graham and his ilk are the "inappropriate" ones. The President's duty is to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"; Gov. Walker and Co. are intent on waging war on the civil rights of workers, flirting uncomfortably close to the definition of treason as state in that documeny, The Republican Party has abandoned The Party of Lincoln, and now espuses the New Confederacy, with a goal being a new Civil War. I wish them less than well.

    February 20, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  12. Jason

    I agree that state workers should reconsider their contributions to health care and retirement. Most union workers agree they can pay more, and will do so. What is not right, and is something I will never agree to, is to take away the right to fight for a safe, healthy, and receptive work place. The state is not a business. A school is not a business. Roads, sewers, police, and firefighters do not count as businesses. Money is important, of course, but you can not call on market forces to describe public services.

    I am a union member. I am a son, grandson, and great grandson of union members (who were both male and female). I am a government employee who has a PhD and gets paid in peanuts ($25,000/ year). But I do things no businessman can ever do. My relatives have worked for the government for 5 generations. I am from Wisconsin. This is my home and my family. Money is not everything to us, we don't mind working 40+ hours a week without the pay out of the private sector. We just want to be treated like human beings, with security over our lives. We do not want to be mindless drones who service the rich.

    February 20, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. AmandaInTN

    If it is inappropriate for Obama to comment, isn't it also inappropriate for Graham to comment? After all, being from South Carolina and working in Washington, shouldn't those two places be his only focus. Shouldn't he refrain from publicly commenting on what is going on in Wisconsin and whether or not the governor is following through on his campaign promises? Unless, of course, Graham is just another politician who holds himself to a different standard than those with whom he disagrees.

    February 20, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. NoWay

    Does anyone in WI remember the sweat shops of the 20's-30's? I sure hope you don't forget the 'slave labor' days.

    February 20, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |

    The VAST majority of Americans, especially the taxpaying private sector, overwhelming rejects the cries for continued special privileges by this small minority of spoiled, union-bated, squeaky wheels. We're behind Gov. Walker 100%. Obama should either lead as president of all America or go back to his first love: community agitating.

    February 20, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. GOP = Greed Over People

    What happened to the whole GOP mantra about the "will of the people" now?

    Seems even the bussed in tea baggers only amounted to a "small crowd" surrounded by pro-labor supporters. Last count was 40,000 and may have been as many as 70,000 watching 1,000 giving bagging demos,

    Even if you add in the 8,000 emails that Walker aids claimed to be "mostly supportive" that is still 31,000 "people" firmly against the governors actjon to the the 9,000 "people" supporting the governor.

    Seems the "will of the people" is only important when the GOP is for the action, not so much when the opposition outnumbers them 3 to 1.

    Of course, there are all those corporate "people" that the activist con Supreme Court gave birth to, that suppott breaking the unions that do benefit the middle class worker.

    The GOP is making "capitalism" a word on equal standing with "socialism".

    In other words, a slur to be hurled back at the GOP!

    February 20, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. rhonabwy

    So, according to Senator Graham, the president should stay in DC and only worry about what happens inside the beltway? Great way to run a country. Thank God for President Obama and his willingness to stand up for the anti-union goons of the Corporate Party.

    February 20, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. bob

    The governor should realize that what goes on in Wisconsin has an affect on the national economy. Get used to it governor, we aren't going to stop fighting.

    February 20, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. catmom

    Now. those on the Right complained when the President didn't speak out in support of the Egyptians and even the Iranians as they were fighting for their rights and freedom but when he speaks out in support of American citizens exercising their rights, he is inappropriate? Shouldn't American citizens receive the same support as those on the right have demanded President Obama give those in the Middle East?

    These American citizens are fighting for the right to have a say in their salaries and benefits. They are fighting to have the right to belong to a union if they decide it is in their best interest. They want the right to be compensated for what they do and not have benefits they negotiated in good faith just stripped away from them without any discussion. Why is it those on the right do not want to extend the same opportunity the their fellow Americans that they say they want for citizens in other countries? I'm just sayin.......

    February 20, 2011 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. Joe

    Walker should be recolled.

    He has turned surplus into deficit in 4 weeks. Just like GWB did in 2001 with federal busget!

    That is the GOP strategy, get US into fiscal mess and scream we have to cut spending (except, of course, military and other GOP favrites).

    February 20, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. GOP = Greed Over People

    If it is "inappropriate" for the President of the United States to comment on actions in Wisconsin, then it is certainly INAPPROPRIATE for the mealy mouthed Senator from South Carolina to comment on any issue outside of South Carolina, let alone something the President said

    No wonder the GOP keeps cutting back on public education funds, they need people ignorant enough to believe the GOP "logic"!

    February 20, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  22. Alert U

    To roll back 180 degrees in steps. Next Republicans will convince young people if they have no intention of going to college then its okay to not finish high school. Next 180 degrees people at age twelve will say, "What the heck" and start working. Next 180 degrees some rich folks will convince folks that instead of arguing for wages, 'sign a contract'-"Whereby all food and lodgings will be paid for-included such pleasures as paid trips to the beach and Disney Land, etc..." Such self imposed slavery will actually "make sense" to a complacent multitudes. At which point Abe Lincoln will be admonished as the worst President in US history. 360 degrees coming soon to a Conservative Nation near you!

    February 20, 2011 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. jaz

    Yes, Sen. Lindsey Graham, but you and your fellow Republicans should be focusing on helping the struggling working class. Giving tax cuts to the rich while cutting funds that help struggling working class families might be seen as inappropriate by more voters than you think.

    February 20, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. rusty155

    President Obama Is right. If the Gov Of these state are right than let start With the GOV. and the lawmaker get their pay cut and they have to pay more out of there pocket and there pension. Than maybe the people would understand than. Why Is It the American people all ways have too give thing up all the time. When It the Government Is the One that got us In this trouble In the first place. Just like Social Security If the Republican didn't borrow money from Social Security and would have pay It back there wouldn't be a problem with It. all Republican do Is LIE and make the RICH , RICHER.

    February 20, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. D. Bunker

    The masks are off now, and ultrarich have begun their full frontal assault on the poor and middle class.

    February 20, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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