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Divided they could fall

Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Earlier this month when the General Assembly was in Springfield, House Speaker Michael Madigan called Senate President John Cullerton six different times to ask him to move the child care program restoration legislation once it passed the House.

Yes, you read that right. Six times.

The man is most definitely single-mindedly persistent.

As you probably already know, the deal cut with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, and others to mostly restore the draconian Child Care Assistance Program cuts Rauner made this past summer involved not voting on a bill which would’ve fully restored the governor’s cuts.

Madigan wanted that bill to pass, however, and apparently believed through much of the day that his chamber would pass it, even though it seemed obvious that Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, had once again jumped into the political bed with the GOP governor. Some House Republicans were talking about voting for the bill, though, and that kept Madigan’s hopes alive.

Because he thought it still had a shot, Madigan would not relent on Cullerton. And while the constant calls reportedly irritated Cullerton to no end, they didn’t work. Cullerton backed up his member’s deal and the Speaker was politely refused. Six times. The bill died in the House when all Republicans and Dunkin voted against the Speaker.

Madigan’s pressure on Cullerton was pretty darned ironic since Madigan is sitting on several Cullerton bills that the Speaker has long refused to move. Cullerton’s chamber has twice passed minimum wage increase bills which have gone nowhere in the House despite the fact that Madigan pushed a referendum last year to raise the minimum wage. Cullerton also passed a property tax freeze bill which provides more money for Chicago Public Schools and kills off the state’s ancient school funding formula. But that hasn’t moved in the House, either.

Cullerton has sent four appropriations bills to the House, but instead of using one of those as a vehicle to fund municipalities, 911 call centers, Lottery winners, etc., the Speaker refused the governor’s requests for additional items and stuck everything he wanted on a House bill, which he then froze in place with a parliamentary hold after his chamber passed it with a huge bipartisan majority.

Madigan’s move not only upset local mayors, who really want their money, but also agitated Senators in both political parties.

Because Madigan put a hold on the bill, Cullerton couldn’t start the legally required process of “reading” the legislation for three days, which means he now has to bring members back for more than a single day if they return in December.

OK, that doesn’t sound like much, and it may not be of concern even to people who do this for a living. But we’re in the holiday season, so getting legislators back to Springfield isn’t as easy as you’d think, not to mention that if members have to return, they would rather not be in Springfield longer than a single day. Again, it’s not the worst problem in the world, but it has aggravated the rank and file to no end.

One of the biggest reasons why Madigan was angry with Cullerton for allowing the child care funding deal to happen is that Madigan just doesn’t trust the governor to keep his word.

Madigan didn’t believe that Rauner would keep his promise to fund the child care program and will instead once again use the program — which helps move tens of thousands of parents off of welfare and into work and college — as a hostage for whatever else Rauner wants sometime down the line.

So, when the Department of Human Services’ top lawyer testified last week about the governor’s new administrative rules to fund the program, the House Democrats attempted to get him on record that the Department would indeed be restoring the full program once a budget deal is in place, which was the deal cut by Rauner and rank-and-file legislative Democrats. The attorney refused to say either way, and House Democrats saw that as yet more proof that Rauner can’t keep his word.

Even a statement by the governor’s office later in the day assuring everyone that the deal stood as made didn’t satisfy the House Democrats, who are still obviously upset with the Senate.

There has probably been tension between the House and the Senate since 1818, when the state was founded. And it has certainly been far worse, like, for instance, when Emil Jones was Senate President and openly warred with Speaker Madigan, who repeatedly returned the favor.

But things are not good right now.

Like we need even more bad news in Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - NOTFUNNY - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 8:50 am:

    In regards to Sen. Hutchinson working with the governor you wrote, “As you probably already know, the deal cut with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson”. On the contrary, when referring to Dunkin working with the governor you wrote, “Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, had once again jumped into the political bed with the GOP governor”.

    You obviously have an agenda when it comes to Ken Dunkin. What is up with your obsession with this man?

  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    ===What is up with your obsession with this man? ===

    The guy puts himself on the teevee every other day and I’m the one with the obsession?


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 8:54 am:

    Also, I checked your comments here and you only comment about Dunkin. So, what’s your obsession? Try commenting on other posts. There’s lots of them.

  4. - Facts are Stubborn Things - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:02 am:

    @- Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 8:54 am:

    =Also, I checked your comments here and you only comment about Dunkin. So, what’s your obsession? Try commenting on other posts. There’s lots of them. =

    Rich, what is wrong with someone posting about what topic or what person they want to. Is there some requirement to post on a certain amount of topics…did not know we were being audited?

  5. - Facts are Stubborn Things - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    I agree, by the way, that you (Rich) have no obsession about Dunkin….he has brought the attention on.

  6. - Big Joe - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    Madigan is right not to trust Rauner. How many times has he not come through with promises made during his campaign? That ought to give you a hint of how good his word is on things.

  7. - NOTFUNNY - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:04 am:

    ==Try commenting on other posts.==

    I have commented on plenty of other posts. For starters, I commented on the Poe replacement post last week. Check harder.

  8. - Dilemma - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:08 am:

    I think the difference is that Sen. Hutchinson actively worked to obtain a deal with the Governor that may or may not have been sanctioned by leadership in the Senate. Rep. Dunkin, on the other hand, voted against his entire caucus and hung his leadership in the House out to dry.

    Had Dunkin been working to find a deal, and then presented it to leadership, whether accepted or not, I don’t think that would be a problem. Turning his back on his fellow caucus members and siding with the Governor, on the other hand, has political consequences.

  9. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:12 am:

    Can’t govern without trust.

    Can’t be done with “One-Party” rule (ugh)

    Especially can’t be done in divided government.

    The relationship between Cullerton and Madigan is the sub-plot of the Rauner-Madigan… “struggle”.

    Dunkin, the least trustworthy member of the entire General Assembly is the poster child of what IllinoisGO is all about. Ken Dunkin cares nothing of his district but only for his one constituent, living in the Governor’s Mansion.

    When IllinoisGO monies find their way into Dunkin’s coffers, or more likely with an untrustworthy soul like Dunkin, IllinoisGO will spend monies themselves, bypassing Dunkin altogether.

    Raunerites are coming. It’s real. It’s happening. It’s not conjecturer anyone. Ken Dunkin begins the beginning of the Democratic Raunerites.

  10. - low level - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:20 am:

    Please…. This is the first time in Dunkin’s, ahem, “illustrious” and “well accomplished” career as a legislator (13 years) that he has even been mentioned here.

    There are people who have known and worked with Dunkin since before he became a legislator. They could start blogs of their own detailing his, and his campaigns’ antics over the years. Many have in fact put these experiences on FB pages.

    I think most of us prefer to sit back, watch to see who emerges as the strongest primary opponent, then watch some fundraisers begin in earnest.

    For myself, I always knew he was crazy but had his heart in the right place, so I generally looked the other way. After Ken’s action, that is no longer the case.

    With much respect, if you really know Ken, you also will know he loves the attention. It’s what he lives for. Now he got it.

  11. - low level - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:22 am:

    Dilemma and OW - agreed completely and well stated.

  12. - Handle Bar Mustache - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:24 am:

    Democratic leaders need to unite if they are going to topple our cynical, craven, dishonest governor.

  13. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:28 am:

    Good column. Sometimes it seems like Madigan thinks Cullerton works for him.

    When Madigan calls Cullerton six times, does Cullerton ask him about the bills Madigan isn’t moving? Or does Madigan view this as a one way street?

  14. - Union Man - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:29 am:

    Seems to me Rich’s description of Dunkin being in bed with the Governor is accurate. If Dunkin didn’t have his clothes on that would be a different matter.

  15. - Norseman - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:43 am:

    It’s that trust thingy with Rauner. Just another frustrating dynamic impeding a budget deal.

  16. - walker - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:44 am:

    Interesting dynamic to report right now, but as Rich pointed out, we’ve all seen worse. It calls to question those who just assume the Dems in the GA always work in concert.

    Just think how the process would have worked if Rauner had not singled out Dunkin in his letter, but had mentioned having worked out a deal with Hutchinson instead. Much cooler heads all around, and Rauner wouldn’t have been cutting his own credibility.

  17. - VanillaMan - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 9:50 am:

    Bruce Rauner put an end to the debate regarding his sincerity and trust when he made RTW and union bashing his top priority after assuring Illinoisans he had no interest in pursuing anti-union policies just three months earlier.

    90 days, 180 degree “turnaround” on an issue he knew if he didn’t lie regarding his true intentions, would have lost him the election.

    There is your answer, courtesy of the horse’s mouth himself.

  18. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 10:06 am:

    Legislation would have been preferable, but the thing to do know is verify that the governor is living up to the deal.

    The actual governing is the most important thing. There will be plenty of opportunities to score political points moving forward.

  19. - MrJM - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    “Madigan just doesn’t trust the governor to keep his word.”

    I wonder if we should infer that Cullerton does trust the governor to keep his word; or merely that the Senate President really likes making a deal.

    – MrJM

  20. - scholar athlete - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 10:14 am:

    Horse’s “mouth?” Surely you meant a part of the anatomy at the other end of the horse.

  21. - Archiesmom - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 10:30 am:

    = I think the difference is that Sen. Hutchinson actively worked to obtain a deal with the Governor that may or may not have been sanctioned by leadership In the Senate =.

    It was.

  22. - Levois - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 10:45 am:

    What is it with feuding politicians in this state. If it’s not the two legislative leaders of the same party, it’s also the governor and the legislature. It’s been this way since Blago was governor and it still goes on.

  23. - Lincoln Lad - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    In my opinion, Cullerton has acted to support his members and the citizens of Illinois. The political gamesmanship of the Speaker has truly not supported either. Seems like that was Rauner’s premise from the beginning, though he has stumbled and erred often himself. Might all but one be growing tired enough of all this that a budget can get done?

  24. - Robert the Bruce - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    ==In my opinion, Cullerton has acted to support his members and the citizens of Illinois.==
    +1. He often seems to me to be the adult in the room.

  25. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 12:30 pm:

    ==- Robert the Bruce - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 11:42 am:==

    Or does he just like a nice bottle of wine, one roughly three times the median income in Illinois.

  26. - kitty - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 12:53 pm:

    VanillaMan @ 9:50 am, +1, very well stated. Dishonest by deliberate omission, Mr. Rauner did not campaign on a platform of eviscerating collective bargaining, enacting RTW, eliminating prevailing wage, etc.

  27. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Nov 23, 15 @ 2:01 pm:

    ==Madigan’s pressure on Cullerton was pretty darned ironic since Madigan is sitting on several Cullerton bills that the Speaker has long refused to move.==


    Cullerton keeps gaining respect from many as a statesman and adult in the room, just as he did during the pension bill negotiations even while Madigan would not call Cullerton’s bill despite it having enough support to pass.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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