Wisconsin GOP freshman stays mum on labor dispute

Freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) has been noticeably silent about the ongoing labor battle in Wisconsin, calling it a “state issue.”

Duffy, who succeeded veteran Rep. David Obey (D) in a Democratic-leaning district, has refused to comment directly on the labor reform bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker (R), which has prompted major demonstrations and a walkout by state Senate Democrats.

{mosads}”We’re not going to comment on state politics,” Duffy spokesman Daniel Son said. “He’s refrained from commenting on it other than to say that it’s a state issue and he’s got plenty to worry about trying to get Washington’s fiscal house in order.”

At a constituent event earlier in the week, Duffy referred to the protests, entering their 10th day Thursday with no end in sight, in the context of the fiscal woes facing both Wisconsin and Washington.

But he did not weigh in on Walker’s proposal, which calls for increased contributions by public employee unions to pension and benefits programs, along with limits on collective bargaining.

“Scott Walker is facing a crushing debt at the state level, too,” Duffy said in Hayward, Wis., on Tuesday evening, according to ABC affiliate WDIO. “And we’ve been able to prolong it because we’ve had administrations that were willing to take money from transportation and other funds to plug the holes. And now we’ve come, we’ve come to a day of reckoning.

“I think that’s great, it’s the great democracy that we have in America at work. People get to voice their opinion and I appreciate peaceful protest,” the first-term congressman said over the weekend, according to NBC affiliate WJFW.

The issue is politically thorny for Duffy. A former reality TV star, he won a seat that President Obama carried by 13 points in 2008 in an upset victory that helped give Republicans control of the House. Wisconsin was in many ways ground zero for GOP victories last fall, and Duffy will be a top target in 2012.

Many Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have come out in support of Walker, though in Indiana, where similar legislation was on the table, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) took the opposite stance, saying the bill should not be acted on.

Other Republican members of Wisconsin’s delegation — Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Reid Ribble and Sen. Ron Johnson — have commented on the situation. Ryan blessed Walker’s efforts as an effort to rein in the deficit, while Ribble praised Walker for trying to “actually be honest with the people.”

“We’ve got a $3.6 billion budget deficit over two years and Gov. Walker is trying to address that and trying to do it honestly,” Johnson said Wednesday on the Fox Business Network. “And he’s doing it with civility.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a veteran Republican from a safe GOP district, hasn’t yet commented.

Duffy’s former campaign manager and chief of staff left to become Wisconsin director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group organizing rallies and running ads in support of Walker. That group is financially supported by the Koch Brothers, a pair of wealthy activists who push fiscally conservative causes.

A vote is expected on the proposal Thursday.

This post was updated at 8:56 a.m.

Tags Boehner John Boehner Paul Ryan Reid Ribble Ron Johnson Sean Duffy
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