Vos Apologizes for “Terrorists” Comment

After taking criticism from fellow Republicans, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has apologized for calling three Republican state senators “terrorists” for a tactic they used during the state budget process. In a recorded interview with Mike Gousha on “Upfront” which aired Sunday, Vos called Senators Chris Kapenga, Steve Nass and Duey Stroebel terrorists for withholding their votes on the budget until Governor Scott Walker agreed to specific vetoes.

On Monday Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called on Vos to apologize. Later Monday, Vos did just that, in a released statement:

Everyday, there are brave men and women who put their lives on the line across the globe to stop terrorists, and for them, I am extremely grateful.  As Speaker, I have strived to increase the civility within the legislature. I now regret using the word terrorist because it goes against the guidelines I’ve set for our chamber, and myself. For that, I apologize.

But Vos also said in the statement that he continues to be concerned with the senators’ actions (typos and misspellings are from the original statement):

 …that the actions of a few Senators, who cannot work with their colleagues in their own caucus, could disrupt progress on important legislation for the people of Wisconsin. Will we now have to run everything past a few rogue holdouts before committees take executive action? In the Assembly, our caucus communicated regularly on the budget. We talked with each other and with the public. Our members knew what the consensus positions were every step of the budget process and our outstanding Joint Finance team fought for Assembly Republicans’ priorities.


With good negation, comes good-faith give and take. But some Senators chose to continue taking while threating a “no” vote. Every lawmaker has a voice, but we must recognize that we now have large majorities in both houses. If the Governor has to negotiate every initiative with more than 80 individual legislators, nothing will get accomplished. The last seven years proved that we are better when we work together. 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.

Stroebel issued a statement Sunday after the interviewed aired:

Brave men and women in uniform combat terrorists everyday. Terrorists use violence in an effort to destroy our American way-of-life.  To imply fellow Republican legislators are terrorists is the type of hyperbolic rhetoric Wisconsinites are tired of hearing. Wisconsinites expect more of their leaders than to make these kind of personal attacks.


The legislative process requires both houses to approve the same bill. Speaker Vos demanded other senators and I voted for the state budget, without amendments, on a specific date.  We did.  I worked with Senate colleagues and the Governor to ensure the budget bill represented the best interest of all Wisconsinites by slowing the growth of government and establishing important reforms. The final budget included nearly 100 vetoes.


I look forward to working with Governor Walker on our party’s fall agenda. I hope all Republicans can move beyond name calling and continue working to implement  conservative priorities.

In a Monday morning interview with WTMJ radio, Vos expressed regret for his choice of words, but stopped short of apologizing. Prior to Vos issuing the statement today, Media Trackers asked Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke if he thought Vos should apologize. Steineke stopped short of calling for a Vos apology:

“I’ve told the Speaker privately and have also said publicly that I think the use of the term “terrorists” was a mistake. To his credit, he has acknowledged that publicly as well. If or when he chooses to convey this to the three senators is his choice to make.”