Rep. Melissa Sargent: GOP leaves no room for bipartisan cooperation

Rep. Melissa Sargent: GOP leaves no room for bipartisan cooperation

June 23, 2015 4:30 am    REP. MELISSA SARGENT | Democratic member, Wisconsin Assembly

Two weeks ago I happened to read an opinion column written by Rep. Scott Allen that was published in the Cap Times. While I don’t usually make a habit of responding to columns like his, I couldn’t help but note the irony of him accusing Democrats of “partisan posturing” and creating “an environment of extreme rhetoric,” only to paradoxically stress the importance of bipartisanship and cooperation mere paragraphs later.

Interestingly enough, all of those words indicate a willingness to negotiate, to listen, to engage in dialogue, to bargain for a set of mutual gains and outcomes. And yet, for the past five years, it has been the Republican way or the highway for governance in Wisconsin. Democrats haven’t had a majority to leverage for compromise even if we wanted to, as evidenced by the numerous harmful pieces of legislation signed into law in spite of our objections, and as further illustrated with this disaster of a budget.

So while I appreciate the notion — and even believe wholeheartedly — that we should get along, think pragmatically, work together, and practice the Golden Rule, I’d be curious to know how Republicans define those terms, or in what ways they think they’ve been shining examples of anything resembling cooperation, bipartisanship, or even that rare phenomenon called compromise. And what’s more, I’m not sure they’ve left any room for compromise to even occur.Blue and Red Blanket

We’ve introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage and living local wages for working Wisconsinites. They’ve passed bills to make it harder for struggling families to eat.

We’ve introduced legislation to increase special education funding. They’ll be passing a budget that exempts private schools from accommodating or even accepting students with special needs.

We’ve introduced legislation to accept $800 million to make health care affordable and accessible to everyone in Wisconsin. They’ve passed bills that have helped eliminate preventative health care services and providers.

We’ve introduced legislation to allow voters to vote in any partisan primary. They’ve passed bills that make it harder for everyone in Wisconsin to vote.

We’ve introduced legislation to decrease tuition debt for higher education. They’ll be passing a budget with a $250 million cut to our University of Wisconsin system.

Two People Shaking HandsWe’re standing up for working people, supporting aging and long-term care programs, protecting our schools, conserving our environment, and defending the values that are the very fabric of our state. If Republicans are really going to accuse others of using extreme rhetoric, partisan posturing, and being unwilling to cooperate, they might do well to try and lead by example, because they’ve frequently left little room for compromise

Democrats will continue to be relentless, unyielding and, yes, uncompromising in defending these values and protecting the people of Wisconsin. And if that is what Republicans would call “uncooperative” or too “partisan,” then so be it.

In the meantime, I’d welcome any of my Republican colleagues to stop by my office if they really want to have an open and honest dialogue about how we can foster bipartisanship, cooperation, and compromise.

321 West. You know where to find me.

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.