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.