Wisconsin Republicans are now running into a rough sight in the battle over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and its anti-public employee union provisions, a sight that might be familiar to Democrats from the 2009-2010 health care debates: Loud, raucous town halls. And when U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) ran into that ruckus last night in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Sensenbrenner declared the meeting over — after 27 minutes.
As the local paper WauwatosaNOW, which has the same parent corporation as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reports:
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner shut down Monday night’s town hall meeting in Wauwatosa early because the overflow crowd was more interested in talking about the state budget bills with Republican host state Sen. Leah Vukmir, attendees said.
The meeting got off to a tense start, they explained. Sensenbrenner threatened to shut it down if the crowd got unruly.
Here’s a YouTube video that was uploaded Monday night, apparently from the end of the meeting. Sensenbrenner’s declaration of adjournment comes at shortly after the 2:20 mark — followed by various members of the crowd rising up to chant “Shame! Shame! Shame!” echoing the state Assembly Democrats’ chants after the budget repair bill passed in that chamber.
Sensenbrenner’s office gave this statement to WTMJ radio in Milwaukee:
“Congressman Sensenbrenner and the Wauwatosa library director repeatedly asked individuals attending last night’s Town Hall Meeting to be respectful as other patrons were using the library. After numerous requests for attendees to listen to the individual speaking and be mindful of other library patrons were ignored, the meeting was adjourned.
“It is unfortunate that the same respect given at Congressman Sensenbrenner’s Town Hall Meeting in Brookfield Sunday evening wasn’t experienced last night, and individuals who were patiently waiting to ask a question, receive help with casework or share their concern were unable to do so at the meeting.
“Congressman Sensenbrenner invites those individuals to call his office or send him and email and he will get a response to them.”
This isn’t the first time the controversy over Walker’s bill has spilled into local politics in the state. In the special election for Milwaukee County Executive, a nominally non-partisan race to fill the office Walker held before he was elected governor, the de facto Republican nominee is state Rep. Jeff Stone who voted for the bill in the Assembly. And now Stone has begun to back away from it: “It’s not necessarily the way I would have drafted this budget-repair bill. I would have approached it in different ways.”