Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his State of the State address virtually as members of the Assembly watch from the Assembly Chambers at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP) Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his State of the State address virtually as members of the Assembly watch from the Assembly Chambers at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his State of the State address virtually as members of the Assembly watch from the Assembly Chambers at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke January 27, 2021

Steineke’s actions, words don’t match on COVID-19 bill

If Your Time is short

  • Steineke puts forth the Assembly action as the result of compromise, but it simply isn't.
     
  • The Republican-run state Senate reached a deal with the Democratic governor, but the Assembly set that aside and passed its own bill. The Assembly bill did not involve the governor. And it was immediately criticized by the head of the state Senate.
     
  • Wisconsin still hasn't passed a COVID-19 bill since April 2020, making it one of the least active legislatures in the country in addressing the pandemic.

After going through the last eight months of 2020 without passing a single bill, Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature is taking another run at addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

The Legislature was at odds with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers throughout the past year, and rebuffed numerous attempts by Evers to force them into session. 

But the state Senate signaled a potential move toward the middle when it passed a coronavirus relief package Jan. 12, 2021, that had been negotiated with Evers.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said that bill "addresses the critically-important needs of school districts, non-profit organizations, and small employers." Evers called that bill — an amended version of an Assembly bill — "a good faith effort in compromise and bipartisanship" and urged the Assembly to pass it as amended and send it to his desk for a signature.

Instead, the Assembly added back in many of the elements the Senate had removed, passing their own version on Jan. 26. This new version now goes back to the Senate, which must decide whether it’s close enough to their version to approve.

If approved, Evers would have to decide whether he is comfortable signing it as well.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, touted the bill this way on Twitter:

"Here in Madison, you learn quickly that give and take is needed to get things done," Steineke said. "Assembly Republicans have come to the table and made concessions to get this much-needed relief to hard-working Wisconsin families."

This paints a picture of a back-and-forth where Assembly Republicans worked with the other side to reach a consensus. Is that really what happened?

Let’s take a closer look at how Steineke’s words and actions line up.

Actions speak louder

We’re coming out of a year in which the Wisconsin Legislature did less than almost any other state legislative body to address the ongoing pandemic, even though it is one of just 10 full-time legislatures in the nation. 

Featured Fact-check

The Legislature has passed no bills on the topic since mid-April, when both bodies passed wide-ranging legislation addressing unemployment, health care, education and government procedures, many of which applied only during the first public health emergency that Evers declared in March.

The state Senate moved to block this partisan logjam in negotiating with Evers — a step that was rarely taken between the legislative and executive branches in 2020 — by producing the compromise bill. The Republican-run Senate passed the bill 29-2, and Evers promised to sign it.

The Assembly, which had expected the Senate to pass its original version, balked at the changes. Their updated version doesn’t restore all the elements of the original, but it does add back in elements the Senate removed amid its negotiations with Evers. 

In short, the Assembly rejected the Senate’s bipartisan deal that Evers would have signed in favor of its own version that "fights for the conservative ideals we know are important to our constituents throughout the state," as Steineke phrased it in another tweet.

Alesha Emmert, a spokeswoman for Steineke, said Jan. 26 the "give and take" he referenced was with his own party. She said Republican leaders of the Assembly and Senate "discussed amendment language ahead of today’s floor period to see if common ground could be achieved."

But LeMahieu, the Senate leader, disputed that characterization.

"We are concerned that the changes that the Assembly made will cause the governor to veto the bill, and all along we wanted to make sure that we produced a bill that the governor could sign and would address the needs of Wisconsin," LeMahieu told WisPolitics.com after the Assembly vote.

And Britt Cudaback, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers, said the Assembly didn’t work with Evers on their new version of the coronavirus bill.

Our ruling

After the Assembly ignored a Senate-backed compromise to pass its own coronavirus bill, Steineke said, "Here in Madison, you learn quickly that give and take is needed to get things done," claiming Assembly Republicans had "come to the table" and compromised.

This characterization of the Assembly action is disingenuous at best.

Steineke’s verbiage referencing compromise — typically used to refer to politicians from opposing parties finding a middle ground — doesn’t reference bipartisanship at all. Evers wasn’t part of this process. And whatever negotiations occurred between the GOP leaders of the Senate and Assembly, this description clearly overreaches given LeMahieu’s immediate criticism of the result.

That’s not getting things done, and it’s not in line with Steineke’s "give and take" description.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Jim Steineke, tweet, Jan. 26, 2021

Jim Steineke, tweet, Jan. 26, 2021

Wispolitics.com, LeMahieu warns Evers might veto Assembly version of COVID-19 bill, Jan. 27, 2021

Devin LeMahieu statement, Senate Finds Path for COVID Relief, Liability Protections, Jan. 12, 2021

Tony Evers statement, Gov. Evers Statement on COVID-19 Legislation Advanced by Senate, Jan. 12, 2021

Email exchange with Alesha Emmert, spokeswoman for Jim Steineke, Jan. 26, 2021

Email exchange with Britt Cudaback, spokeswoman for Tony Evers, Jan. 26, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Republicans in state Senate buck Vos and say no to his COVID-19 bill, Jan. 7, 2021

MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel, With Republicans divided, Senate leaders slightly scale back Assembly's COVID bill, Jan. 11, 2021

National Conference of State Legislatures, State Action on Coronavirus (COVID-19), accessed Oct. 6, 2020

National Conference of State Legislatures, Full- and Part-Time Legislatures, June 14, 2017

Wispolitics.com, Review finds Wisconsin has least active full-time legislature in nation since pandemic, Oct. 6, 2020

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Eric Litke

Steineke’s actions, words don’t match on COVID-19 bill

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up