In Context: One Wisconsin GOP leader calling fellow Republicans 'terrorists'

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, called Republican state senators "terrorists" as a result of maneuvers in the state budget process. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, called Republican state senators "terrorists" as a result of maneuvers in the state budget process. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Vos also criticized GOP Gov. Scott Walker, despite their close political relationship. (Associated Press)
Vos also criticized GOP Gov. Scott Walker, despite their close political relationship. (Associated Press)

In Wisconsin, internecine, intra-party verbal warfare rarely reaches this level.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos used the T-word -- terrorists -- in blasting his fellow Republicans.

Wait -- what?

Here is In Context, our periodic look at sound bites that make news.

Vos was interviewed on the Oct. 22, 2017 edition of "UpFront with Mike Gousha," a weekly public affairs show produced by WISN-TV in Milwaukee. Vos made the terrorists comment, which made headlines and triggered criticism from fellow Republicans, when Gousha asked about the state budget that recently had been adopted by the GOP-majority Legislature and GOP Gov. Scott Walker. (Vos apologized the next day.)

Gousha: So, you’ve been praising Governor Walker several times already [during the interview] and I’ve got to ask you about the way the budget process ended. You were not happy with some facets of it.

Vos: No. It was wrong.

Gousha: It was wrong --

Vos: Yeah, the process the way, it happened.

Gousha: -- that some conservative senators said, These are the things we need, and the governor said, Those will be in the budget. You were upset about that.

Vos: Right. Well, the way that we have operated for better than 50 years is you have the Joint Finance Committee doing hearings around the state, listening to the public, making a deal as they go, where the Senate and the Assembly negotiate. They put things in that are necessary, we add things in for people's districts, we say what can they and can they not support. And then in the end, the final package is voted out [approved] and we adopt those two because we’ve done a pre-conference committee, the opposite way that other states do. So, for then, individual rogue senators to say, I've been involved in this process the entire time but I want to put my foot down and I'm not going to vote for it unless I get that, that is wrong. And it’s just something that we should never allow to happen. Frankly, I wish Governor Walker hadn’t negotiated with terrorists. I think that’s a bad way to operate the Legislature --

Gousha: Terrorists? You call them rogue senators and terrorists.

Vos: That's what they are! Because you don't hold somebody hostage for your own personal needs. What you say is, Look you negotiate, you give and you take. A lot of the things that they got, Governor Walker --

Gousha: They might say that's politics.

Vos: No, the difference is that in Governor’s Walker’s case, there were deals that were made inside the budget -- you support one thing in exchange for another. You say, I can live with that as long as you can maybe tweak this or change that. But to go ahead and outside that process -- where nobody else was involved, only three people made a back-room deal to be able to have something that could not be announced before the budget was enacted. Maybe the budget  would have failed if we would have known some of these aspects were going to be vetoed, but we never had the chance to know. So, that process  is not going to happen again if I have anything to say about it. It was wrong, it shouldn’t have happened..

Gousha: So, you sent the governor a text and you weren't happy and you said --- and I’m quoting now, "I won't forget this." And then you went on to say, "Very disappointed in the way I've been treated, not even the courtesy of a phone call before you (Governor Walker) took out things that were important to me" -- to you. He didn't respond to that. What do you think about it now after the passage of a little time?

Vos: Well, the governor was obviously over in South Korea, so that's why I sent the text because I knew he was not actively involved in the negotiations because he was, of course, representing Wisconsin. From my standpoint, I consider myself one of Governor Walker's best allies. I endorsed him before he became governor, when he ran against [2006 Republican nominee] Mark Green. I have been one of his key allies ever since. To me --

Gousha: You’ve had a couple of exchanges.

Vos: Well yeah, because, well, that's what friends do. I mean, I try to be honest and upfront. Others don't have the ability to do that. So, Governor Walker, to his credit, we sat down after he got back Korea, we talked for well over an hour about some of the things that were and were not promised inside those negotiations. So, to me, it's old news -- which is why it’s weeks ago and I know you have to talk about it -- but that's what friends do. You have disagreements, you talk about it and you do it in a way that’s respectful. You don’t do it like those senators did, where they put threats out there, and said, If I don't get my way, I’m going to be a no. That’s just not the way we’ve ever operated and it shouldn’t be here in the state.

[End of interview.]