Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Facing a bipartisan backlash, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has apologized for calling three GOP senators “terrorists,” saying it “goes against the guidelines I’ve sent for our chamber, and myself.”

Still, the Rochester Republican on Monday continued to criticize the actions of “a few Senators, who cannot work with their colleagues in their own caucus,” saying it could disrupt the legislative process.

“Will we now have to run everything past a few rogue holdouts before committees take executive action?” Vos asked, adding if Gov. Scott Walker has to negotiate every initiative with the more than 80 Republicans now in the Legislature, “nothing will get accomplished.”

“I don’t want to see the constant, defiant demands of a few derail our progress. We can’t let perfect become the enemy of the very, very good, and we must be able to negotiate in good faith in order to continue to deliver on our promises.”

Vos’ statement comes after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, demanded the speaker apologize for remarks that aired on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a partner. During the episode, Vos referred to the three GOP senators who demanded vetoes in exchange for supporting the budget as “terrorists” and “rogue.”

One of the three, Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said he appreciated Vos’ apology, though it was “a shame he continues to perpetrate false personal attacks.”

“It is time for Speaker Vos work with, not attack the Senate, so that we can enact more conservative reforms that move Wisconsin forward,” Stroebel said.

State Sen. Steve Nass, another of the three the speaker targeted, charged Vos’ comments were an attempt to undermine conservative legislation during the fall floor period.

Nass said the speaker should apologize and “cease the inappropriate behaviors that have become all-too-common from him this entire session.” Nass, who spent 33 years in the Wisconsin Air National Guard also said it was “beyond outrageous” that Vos called others a terrorist for “simple public policy disagreements.”

“Speaker Vos didn’t make the ‘terrorist’ statement in a moment of heated debate over the budget,” Nass said. “In my view, it’s a shallow political ploy to reignite the budget disagreement to lay the groundwork to thwart conservative legislation from advancing in the Fall Floor Session.”

According to the office of Majority Leader Jim Steineke, the Assembly has not finalized when it will be in during the final floor period of the year, which runs Oct. 31-Nov. 9. The Senate plans to be in Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, according to Fitzgerald’s office. The Legislature is not scheduled to convene again until mid-January.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, the third GOP senator Vos referenced, said he hoped Republicans can refocus on the work they have left to accomplish this session.

“I understand, just as anyone who has served in the Legislature can attest, that this job can have frustrating moments,” Kapenga said. “However, Speaker Vos choosing to take this to a level so personal is severely inappropriate.”

A spokesman for Walker also condemned Vos’ remarks, saying it is “unacceptable the word was used to describe good public servants at a time when our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorism around the world.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, accused Walker and President Trump of creating “an unhealthy political atmosphere in this state.”

“Labeling colleagues as terrorists won’t restore school funding, fix our crumbling roads or protect access to health care for vulnerable families,” she said. “It’s time for Republican leaders to end the name calling and political gamesmanship and start focusing on the issues important to Wisconsin children, families and seniors.”

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