The statehouse standoff over a labor bill has Republicans defending Iowa’s Democratic governor. Governor Chet Culver has raised concerns about a bill most Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have endorsed which would expand the number of subjects public employees may bring up during union contract negotiations.
House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City is chiding Democrats for the way they’ve treated Culver. "Members of the Democratic Party were fairly disrespectful to Governor Culver over the last week," Rants says.
Rants, in particular, is critical of Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal. "It’s a test of wills about who’s in control, who’s leading the Democratic Party. Is it Governor Culver or is it Mike Gronstal?" Rants asks. "…It’s obvious there’s a test of wills going on."
Gronstal dismisses those remarks from Rants. "I’ve made every effort to work together with the governor. I realize Christopher Rants’ job is to try and stir the pot," Gronstal says. "I have the utmost respect for the governor. I think he’s doing a great job."
Democrats like Gronstal reacted angrily on Monday when Governor Culver suggested they should "pause" and allow for a public hearing on the labor bill, some Democrats going so far as to suggest Culver would have trouble winning reelection in 2010 if he were to veto it. As the week draws to a close, however, Gronstal is more conciliatory. "I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think (Culver) can break Terry Branstad’s record of 16 years in the governor’s office," Gronstal told reporters on Thursday. "I look forward to working with him for the next 20 years as governor of the State of Iowa."
Rants, the top Republican in the House, and Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck met privately with Culver on Thursday to discuss the issue. "The governor, obviously, is going to be taking his time on making a decision on what he does with the collective bargaining bill and has pretty well committed to try to talk to as many individuals as he can on both sides of the issue before he makes his decision," Wieck says. "…He’s not willing to shove it through and make a quick decision on it."
Gronstal, the top Democrat in the Senate, suggests Democrats may move to alter the bill in response to some of Culver’s complaints. "We believe in working in a collaborative way and we’re going to, if the governor has concerns, we’re going to work through those concerns with him and if that requires changes, we’re willing to consider that," Gronstal says.