CBSN

Wisconsin Republicans try to repair relations with Dems after bitter battle over union bill

Wisconsin Senate Democrat leader Mark Miller speaks at a rally outside the state Capitol Saturday, March 12, 2011, in Madison, Wis.
AP Photo/Morry Gash
Wisconsin, protests
Wisconsin Senate Democrat leader Mark Miller speaks at a rally outside the state Capitol Saturday, March 12, 2011, in Madison, Wis.
AP Photo/Morry Gash

In an attempt to repair their working relationship, Wisconsin Republican lawmakers said Tuesday they're lifting the fines and the contempt finding against Democratic politicians who fled Wisconsin in the midst of the state's battle over public unions and the state budget.

"The name of the game is moving this state forward, putting this stuff behind us," Republican Wisconsin Senate President Mike Ellis said at a news conference, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. "Let's get on with the people's business. Let's stop all the bickering."

All 14 of the Democrats in the state Senate fled Wisconsin last month in an attempt to stall the progress of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's so-called "budget repair bill." After some legislative maneuvering, however, the remaining Republican lawmakers managed to pass the bill, and Walker signed it into law last week.

Their efforts finally thwarted, the Democrats returned to work on Monday, only to find that they could not vote on bills in committee because Republican lawmakers had voted to hold them in contempt in the Senate after their departure. Republicans had also fined the Democrats $100 for each day of work they missed.

Republican leaders, however, are now trying to repair the rift that developed between the two parties. Wisconsin Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald said Democrats assured him they'll participate in the upcoming state Senate business, including the consideration of Walker's contentious 2011-2013 state budget, the Journal Sentinel reports.

Even though Republicans managed to pass a pared-down version of the "budget repair bill," the state must still defend the new law in court. Public unions and their supporters opposed the legislation because, in addition to scaling back public workers' benefits, it nearly eliminated most public workers' collective bargaining rights. Officials from Dane County, Wisconsin, are challenging the law, and court hearing on the legal challenge is schedule for Friday. The legislation is slated to officially become law on March 25.

Even as lawmakers in Wisconsin try to tamp down their mutual acrimony, partisan voters are continuing to express their anger over the conflict. Recall efforts against eight Republicans and eight Democrats in the state legislature are currently underway.

Additionally, several liberal groups including MoveOn.org, the Progressive Campaign Change Committee and the People for the American Way are protesting in Washington, D.C. Wednesday evening when Wisconsin Republicans are scheduled to attend a fundraiser at a lobbying firm.