CBS's Erica Hill Suggests Political Strategy to 'Put Pressure' on Wisconsin Governor

In an interview with the Democratic minority leader of the Wisconsin state senate on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proposed a solution to the political stalemate over curbing benefits for public union workers in the state, suggesting Democrats "work together" with "more moderate Republicans" to "come to some sort of agreement that could then put pressure on the Governor."

Minority Leader Mark Miller eagerly agreed: "Absolutely. I think cooler heads need to prevail....There is such a thing as compromise. The Governor needs to be part of that." Earlier, Hill had explained that: "There's been a proposal put forth by moderate Republicans in the state which would effectively take those collective bargaining rights away [from teachers unions], but only for two years, it would bring them back in 2013." To which Miller remarked: "Well, the problem is, is that the Governor has to agree. And the Governor has not done anything except insist...it has to be his way. All or nothing. And the Governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, you negotiate."

In a report prior to Hill's interview with Miller, correspondent Cynthia Bowers declared how Republican Governor Scott Walker "remains on message and has dug in his heels, and vowed not to compromise." On Friday's Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge interviewed Walker and similarly portrayed him as stubborn: "Your Democratic state senators have all fled the state, schools have been closed, the state house, for all intents and purposes, is a mad house right now. And you've talked about potentially mobilizing the national guard. So has your position softened at all here?"

Hill did challenge Miller on he and other Wisconsin Democrats hiding out-of-state to avoid voting on the budget-cutting proposal: "The Senate Majority Leader has said that he will reconvene the Senate tomorrow. Will you, and your 13 colleagues, be there to start moving this process forward?" Miller replied: "Well, he's going to reconvene it on normal business, not on the special session bill that caused us to walk out." Hill followed up: "But would you be there to be part of that business? Because that, too, is business that you need to be a part of."

She later pressed him on his proposals to cut spending in the state: "What is your plan specifically? Because we know there are some tough choices and some tough cuts that do have to be made for the state of Wisconsin." He began to repeat his talking points: "Yes, but that doesn't include stripping workers' rights. That has not – that really has nothing to do with balancing the budget. The Governor asked for economic-" Hill interrupted him: "But what are your specific proposals, sir?"


Here is a full transcript of Hill's February 21 interview with Miller:

7:08AM ET

ERICA HILL: Joining us now, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, who's one of the 14 Democrats who left Wisconsin to stall the vote. He joins us this morning from an undisclosed location. We can tell you it is outside Wisconsin. Senator, good morning to you.

MARK MILLER: Good morning, Erica.        

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Wisconsin Budget Battle; Protests Continue as Dems Stay Away]

HILL: The Senate Majority Leader has said that he will reconvene the Senate tomorrow. Will you, and your 13 colleagues, be there to start moving this process forward?

MILLER: Well, he's going to reconvene it on normal business, not on the special session bill that caused us to walk out.

HILL: But would you be there to be part of that business? Because that, too, is business that you need to be a part of.

MILLER: I – if we go back, then we will have – we will be forced to take up the – the bill that has stripped away workers' rights. And the unions have agreed to all the – the Governor's economic demands, and so all that's left is – is – all they ask for is for them to be able to keep their workers' rights that have been such a long-term tradition in Wisconsin.

HILL: And part of that is – are those collective bargaining agreements. There's been a proposal put forth by moderate Republicans in the state which would effectively take those collective bargaining rights away, but only for two years, it would bring them back in 2013. And then, as you mentioned, unions have agreed that they would pay a little bit more, their workers will. It seems like if you bring those two together we could start to come to a compromise. Is that something you could get behind?

MILLER: Well, the problem is, is that the Governor has to agree. And the Governor has not done anything except insist to be – that – insist it has to be his way. All or nothing. And the Governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, you negotiate. The unions, the public employees, have agreed to the economic demands. The – all they ask is that they be able to retain their workers rights. And we're supporting them in that.

HILL: Do you feel that – that – that Democrats in the minority here could, though, work to together, perhaps, with some of these more moderate Republicans, that amongst yourselves you could come to some sort of agreement that could then put pressure on the Governor?

MILLER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think cooler heads need to prevail. Workers need to retain their rights. They've given up the economic demands that the Governor feels he needs to balance the budget. So now let's find a compromise. There is such a thing as compromise. The Governor needs to be part of that.

HILL: And what would you propose in terms of a compromise? What is your plan specifically? Because we know there are some tough choices and some tough cuts that do have to be made for the state of Wisconsin.

MILLER: Yes, but that doesn't include stripping workers' rights. That has not – that really has nothing to do with balancing the budget. The Governor asked for economic-

HILL: But what are your specific proposals, sir?
    
MILLER: You know, the idea is, as you negotiate, you don't negotiate out in the – in the press. You negotiate with interested parties. That's what the Governor should have done in the first place. He should have negotiated with the – with the workers that he is the head of – and he refused to do that. He tried to impose his will. And he unilaterally stripped – is stripping away workers' rights.

HILL: So then, are you saying, I just want to be clear for folks at home, too, because so many people are watching the state of Wisconsin, so many other states are dealing with budget issues this morning. Is there something specific that you can give us that you would put on the table to begin those negotiations?

MILLER: Right. We're putting on the table the – the public employees have given you what you want, Governor, you give them the ability to retain their rights as workers.

HILL: Senator Mark Miller, thanks for your time this morning.

MILLER: Thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC