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Madigan’s messages

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

House Speaker Michael Madigan likes to send “messages.” He doesn’t often explain what those messages are, but last week’s surprising defeat of a bill to give the Chicago Public Schools a 40-day extension on its $634 million pension payment due June 30th was most surely a message to somebody.

Despite his spokesman saying the day before that Madigan was “prepared to be supportive,” it’s clear that Madigan did not work to pass the bill, which was being pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. His staff did not urge members to vote for it before or during the roll call.

Madigan himself said he did not ask the Republicans for a specific number of votes for a structured roll call, which is another indication that he wasn’t ready to move the ball forward.

Madigan’s Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang presided over the proceeding. A newspaper reported that Lang voted “No” in order to file a motion to reconsider the vote that would keep it alive. OK, but if you watch the roll call, Lang pushed his red button right after the voting was opened, which probably sent a strong signal to the rank and file.

House Democrats don’t have to be told what to do at moments like these. As we’ve seen time and again, when Madigan doesn’t actively push a bill, his members automatically assume that things aren’t soup yet and they can vote however they want.

So, when Gov. Rauner’s office sent out a statement saying: “The only reason the Speaker’s Chicago caucus would vote against the Mayor’s bill is because Madigan wanted to kill it,” Madigan could deny to reporters with a straight face that he said that to anybody.

But whether the governor’s office is right or if Madigan simply stepped aside and allowed the bill to go down on its own, the end result is still the same. The bill failed.

‘This complicates things,’ cryptically said a high level Rauner administration official.” Yep. That’s how he said. He refused to elaborate further.

Despite the dark humor, the Rauner folks were in no mood for the usual Springfield parlor game of guessing what Madigan was actually trying to say without actually saying it. They thought they had a deal, they trusted Madigan to hold up his end, and instead the bill went down in flames. Their anger was palpable.

They also didn’t appear to have the patience to wait until the House returned to Springfield for another crack at the legislation (and, because of the looming deadline, when the bill’s passage seems much more likely).

OK, back to the “messages” parlor game. What the heck was Madigan up to?

Most likely, he was sending a message to Mayor Emanuel that if he wanted to cut deals with Gov. Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton, then he’d have to work his caucus to find the votes – or come to him and ask that he do it. And he also likely wants Gov. Rauner to “own” this steaming pile of kick the can.

Insiders have long said that Madigan has believed from the beginning that those three men would attempt to triangulate him. Mayor Emanuel lives in Senate President Cullerton’s district and he has a long-standing professional, political and personal friendship with Gov. Rauner. It’s always been the obvious play: Line up the mayor, the governor, the Senate Democrats and the two House GOP caucuses against the House Speaker.

But it’s also a dangerous game because trapping that old bull in a corner will have serious long-term consequences, which is why Senate President Cullerton has gone far out of his way to not make it appear that this was happening.

The Rauner administration, however, sent a clear signal before the House vote that, as far as they were concerned. the triangulation play had begun.

A letter to Rep. John Bradley from the governor’s chief legislative liaison about a Bradley committee request for some internal payroll information: “While we understand your desire to hold sham hearings to distract the taxpayers from your vote for an unbalanced budget and your desire to raise taxes without reform, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with Senate Democrats, Mayor Emanuel and Republican leaders toward a comprehensive bipartisan agreement to turn around Illinois.”

You can’t get much more clear than that.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

37 Comments
  1. - Nieva - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    As the old saying goes, mess with the bull and you might just get the horn….


  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:17 am:

    === “While we understand your desire to hold sham hearings to distract the taxpayers from your vote for an unbalanced budget and your desire to raise taxes without reform, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with Senate Democrats, Mayor Emanuel and Republican leaders toward a comprehensive bipartisan agreement to turn around Illinois.”===

    Isolation and triangulation.

    It’s “Fire Madigan” on the $100 million investment of $60 to win the Big Chair, $20 to co-opt the GOP GA, and the eventual full funding of Turnaround Agenda PAC to attack on one flank, and ILGO to infiltrate and infect the HDems with Raunerites…

    …and Madigan is resisting? You think?

    It’s not the Governor going after the Speaker. It’s literally Bruce Rauner going after Mike Madigan. Rauner will “use” Democrats, buy and use the Illinois Republican Party as his shell corporation to keep it “credible”, and probably less than a dozen people to fund it.

    Madigan working a bill that he’s been triangulated on, and telegraphed in a “smart” letter confirming it? Seriously?

    Rauner wants 60/71 for passage, going around Madigan? Start with the 47 you own in the Raunerite GOP Caucus. Being 18, yes eighteen votes, short, that’s a failure of understanding; you go around the Speaker, better be able to count.

    Never call a bill for an up or down vote unless the desired result will be realized.

    Ok, now what?


  3. - some dude - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    ” steaming pile of kick the can.” This is a wonderful turn of phrase, worthy of Justice Scalia! Thank you.


  4. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:30 am:

    The Speaker is kicking a little sand in the Mayor’s face. Coming off a runoff, the Speaker is reminding the Mayor that he just might not have the juice to deliver on his end of the alliance.

    That’s a dangerous game too. There is enormous parochial interest for the schools, teachers, unions and parents in the city. They aren’t above “joining the side they need to see win”.

    Today, we know there was a viable Plan B to getting around this. I’m not so sure the constant guessing game with the Speaker hasn’t reached a point of maximum toleration. We’ll see.


  5. - Harry - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:33 am:

    Ah, it’s the old North Side vs. Southwest Side Democratic war, come back to life. Byrne vs. Bilandic/Daley, redux.


  6. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:38 am:

    The Rauner peeps certainly have been sweet on Cullerton in recent days.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, the governor portrayed him as a dodgy lawyer at the trough and a pillar in the 100 years of corruption.


  7. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:39 am:

    ===Today, we know there was a viable Plan B to getting around this.===

    …then Rauner will own it. It’s Bruce Rauner’s. I look forward to the parsing of what Rauner will own in one action, and in the same gubernatorial lever move, Rauner won’t own.

    The gymnastics will be comical.


  8. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:41 am:

    Sling,
    Two weeks ago is ancient times in politics here in the Land of Lincoln. They’re all good….today.


  9. - Apocalypse Now - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:41 am:

    At some point, even the best overreach to their own peril.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:42 am:

    ===At some point, even the best overreach to their own peril.===

    “Who” overreached?


  11. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:47 am:

    Don’t play with fire.


  12. - Rod - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:48 am:

    Way too much overly complicated speculation going on related to the Speaker’s tactics. The vote for delaying the CTPF payments really is not huge, because CPS can simply pay what it can tomorrow and take the CTPF lawsuit which more than likely would not be heard until August. By then either CPS has the money or it doesn’t. Sine the CPS credit rating is already sot it makes little difference. Today’s Rauner offer of speeding up state General aid up is equally unimportant because it is simply giving CPS less money a month from now and saves some interest payments on tax anticipation warrants. But the media lives on drama, whether it’s flooding or politics.


  13. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:54 am:

    Guy, I’m pretty sure that Cullerton’s law practice remains the same as has his tenure in Springfield.

    What’s changed is the governor’s rhetoric toward him. Apparently, he no longer has a problem with a dodgy lawyer at the trough who’s part of 100 years of corruption.

    The governor’s words have proven to be an unreliable indicator of his future actions.


  14. - Rauner's Votes - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:58 am:

    Ben Joravsky pointed out in the Reader that even more Rs voted no than Ds; over half the R caucus voted no. Why didn’t the Governor try to deliver more votes?


  15. - Jack Stephens - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 9:59 am:

    @word

    While Bruce also gorges at the public trough himself. Corruption is corruption.


  16. - Rauner's Votes - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:00 am:

    BTW that’s an honest question, not an accusation. I don’t know enough about these matters to speculate.


  17. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    They “trusted Madigan to hold up his end, and instead the bill went down in flames.” But some insisted this one was all Rauner’s fault. No Rahm share of responsibility, no Madigan responsibility, just Rauner.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    ===No Rahm share of responsibility, no Madigan responsibility, just Rauner.===

    Hmm.

    ===“While we understand your desire to hold sham hearings to distract the taxpayers from your vote for an unbalanced budget and your desire to raise taxes without reform, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with Senate Democrats, Mayor Emanuel and Republican leaders toward a comprehensive bipartisan agreement to turn around Illinois.”===

    Rauner claims ALL this cooperation, running around the Speaker. Ok. You claim it, you own it. Deliver your votes you need around the Speaker, don’t “count” on the Speaker counting noses for ya.

    Pretty big missing piece of your puzzle…


  19. - Norseman - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:19 am:

    === They “trusted Madigan to hold up his end, and instead the bill went down in flames.” ===

    Obviously you missed the point. Madigan doesn’t have to hold up anything if this was somebody else’s deal.


  20. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:27 am:

    Saint Madigan is never culpable in anything according to some. Had he lifted one finger to do what was best for the city and state, instead of what was best for himself, this could have been resolved.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:50 am:

    “Saint Rauner is never culpable in anything he chooses according to some. Had he lifted one finger to do what was best for the city and state, instead of what was best for himself, this could have been resolved.”

    Better.


  22. - walker - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:56 am:

    ==Line up the mayor, the governor, the Senate Democrats and the two House GOP caucuses against the House Speaker.==

    Did I miss something in the House?

    Good description of Madigan’s operating style. He rarely says much, but his signals are read. When Madigan does not push hard, but votes Yes himself, the members in fact vote however they want. They do not see that pattern as a signal to vote NO.

    The reality: there are limits to all the Leaders’ power. That’s why all the GOP votes could not be expected to be delivered on this issue. The Leaders can and will go to the mat, and deliver more votes than previously expected, but not on every bill.

    If Madigan committed to best efforts to deliver votes for passage, and failed to act, he certainly deserves criticism. If he really wasn’t part of this deal, and his “support” was naively expected, then lesson learned.


  23. - Laughlin and Jackson - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    The message here was to Emanuel. Madigan helped him in his re-election bid and has gotten little to nothing in return.

    Cullerton and Madigan are still thick as thieves.


  24. - Harold's Left-wing Dinner - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:34 am:

    The New York Times ran an article yesterday that could double as a warning to Rauner: Remember the Maine (governor)!

    Any of this sound familiar?
    “Mr. LePage declined an interview request. But Rick Bennett, chairman of the state Republican Party, defended the governor as a change agent, someone who provided “a disruptive energy,” in a good way, and who had “shaken Augusta to its roots.”

    “The governor could claim a mandate and had a tremendous amount of political capital, but in the last six months it has seemingly slipped away,” Mr. Katz said.”

    “Among them was Senator Tom Saviello. “The governor is a businessman, a former C.E.O. whose method is to do what he wants,” Mr. Saviello said of Mr. LePage, who was the general manager of a 14-store discount chain. “But I have to figure out what’s best for the people of Franklin County.”


  25. - Enviro - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    Cullerton / Madigan - good cop / bad cop.


  26. - North Shore Joe - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    Emanuel / Rauner - good cop / bad cop


  27. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:50 am:

    - North Shore Joe -,

    Um, you may wanna reread…

    ===“While we understand your desire to hold sham hearings to distract the taxpayers from your vote for an unbalanced budget and your desire to raise taxes without reform, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with Senate Democrats, Mayor Emanuel and Republican leaders toward a comprehensive bipartisan agreement to turn around Illinois.”===

    It’s about triangulation of the Speaker. It ain’t no good cop and bad cop.

    It’s Barzini using Tattaglia to corner the Corleones. Make Madigan give in to Emanuel, with Rauner going around Madigan. It’s Emanuel all along.


  28. - The Historian - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    Everyone here should read the Joravsky story. It’s a super piece of writing, & he emphasizes how Ron Sandack was among the Rs who voted ‘no’…By his account, neither Rauner nor MJM wanted it to pass.


  29. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:28 pm:

    Why didn’t Rahm try to involve Madigan in the process?


  30. - North Shore Joe - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:36 pm:

    K


  31. - Bill White - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:18 pm:

    @ The Historian -

    Joravsky does make a good point. How can folks whine about Madigan not putting votes on the bill when a disciplined IL GOP House still could have passed the bill:

    = = =

    That brings us to Governor Rauner, the top Republican in the state.

    He swears up and down he favored the extension, but 24 Republican house members voted against it.

    Put it this way, if those Republicans had voted yes, the bill would have passed.

    = = =

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/06/24/who-killed-the-cps-pension-extension-bill


  32. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:31 pm:

    === How can folks whine about Madigan not putting votes on the bill when a disciplined IL GOP House still could have passed the bill:===

    Meh.

    Why should the Republicans do more to help Chicago when ten Democratic members with Chicago turf voted against it, didn’t vote, were absent or voted Present?

    C’mon.


  33. - efudd - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:40 pm:

    “sham”-for the sweet love of the holy trinity, would someone, please, get these superstars a thesaurus.
    As far as triangulating against Madigan, one of those legs has to be the Rauner administration. To date, I’ve yet to see anything that intimidating from his office. Madigan is the smartest person in that room. Like or loathe him, I doubt if any of the three could pull something from their hat he hasn’t seen ten times before.


  34. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:56 pm:

    I had little interest in this bill, but it apparently never went to the Senate; we don’t know how hard Cullerton would have worked for it. Cullerton is out of the conflict with Madigan on this issue; Rauner and Emmanuel own it, and the failure…


  35. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:13 pm:

    Rahm could have gotten the votes with more effort, as happened before.

    Now Rahm will make the effort with the GA he should have made last week, and all is well that ends well unless Madigan puts a brick on the deal because his feelings are hurt.


  36. - Brian - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 4:12 pm:

    Would be nice if stories like this would also link to the roll call so people can see how individual reps voted. Just a suggestion :)


  37. - RNUG - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 5:04 pm:

    == Would be nice if stories like this would also link to the roll call so people can see how individual reps voted. Just a suggestion :) ==

    -Brian-, The target audience is expected to know their way around the Statehouse resources. It’s all online. To quote Rich, Google is your friend.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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