Wisconsin Republicans vote to fire agriculture secretary after farmer suicide criticism and Democratic governor lashes out: ‘Just absolute bull----'


By Mitchell Schmidt, The Wisconsin State Journal

Associated Press | Chicago Tribune | Nov 06, 2019


With Gov. Tony Evers making an unusual appearance on the Senate floor, Republicans voted Tuesday to fire the Democratic governor’s embattled agriculture secretary.


The denial of Brad Pfaff’s nomination to head the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection comes after a last-ditch effort by several Democratic lawmakers and agricultural groups to secure Pfaff’s job. The vote marks the latest partisan clash between Evers and Republicans, who hold the majority of the Legislature.


The Senate voted 19-14 along party lines to deny Pfaff’s nomination, with all five Republicans who voted in favor of Pfaff in committee changing their votes on Tuesday.


A governor’s appointee has not been denied by the Senate since at least 1987.


Evers told reporters he attended the Senate floor session to hear arguments for and against Pfaff, whom he regards as "one of the most distinguished agriculture leaders" in the state.


His appearance is likely the first time in modern history that a Wisconsin governor was present for a floor vote. A staffer for Sen. Fred Risser, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1956, said the senator could not recall a Wisconsin governor ever being present for a Senate floor session, although former Democratic Gov. Patrick Lucey once phoned him on the floor.


After the vote, Evers expressed his stern disapproval, peppered with expletives, and lamented what he said was a chilling effect the Senate’s action might have for cabinet secretaries who are not yet confirmed. Pfaff was fired ostensibly for offending Republicans in comments this summer.


"If I was a total cynic, I’d say keep your damn mouth shut," Evers told reporters. "But I’m not. I want them to be forthcoming. I want them to be professional. That’s why we hired them. They’re the best people for the job. And to think that they’re going to have to keep their mouth shut for the next four years in order to get approved by this Senate, that is just absolute bull****.”


In a statement after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Pfaff was “was part of the problem, not the solution.”


"The liberal Evers Administration has been no friend to farmers," Fitzgerald said. "The Senate will continue to take its role of oversight seriously and will exercise our responsibility to hold them in check."


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