The powerful House speaker and Gov. Pat Quinn finally connected Friday after going much of the week incommunicado following Madigan’s snub of a Tuesday meeting with Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) to talk pensions.
The upshot is the three Democratic leaders have all agreed to sit in the same place on Monday to see if a deal can’t be hashed out to reconcile competing House and Senate pension-reform plans that stalled last week, triggering two credit downgrades for the state.
“I spoke to Speaker Mike Madigan today, and we’re meeting on Monday, and I look forward to meeting with Mike Madigan and President John Cullerton,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago Friday. “The members of the Legislature have an obligation. They’ve got to work together to put on my desk a pension-reform measure so I can sign it into law. They have to forge an agreement. They can do this. That’s what they’re elected to do.”
Madigan was a no-show at the last planned pension summit on Tuesday, with no public explanation either by him or his top aides about his whereabouts. The governor couldn’t even reach Madigan, telling reporters he had left messages with the speaker’s wife and chief of staff for Madigan to call.
Asked Friday to describe the nature of their conversation, Quinn said, “Very pleasant. We’ve been talking over a number of months about this particular issue, and I told him I thought Monday would be a good day for he and I and the president of the Senate to get together so the two legislative leaders could forge an agreement.
“That’s what they have to do so I can sign it into law. They have a job. I have a job,” the governor continued. “My job is to sign it into law.”
Pressed on exactly what Madigan said to him, Quinn said, “See you Monday.”
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker simply agreed to meet the governor and Cullerton, but Brown did not indicate the three players were any closer to a deal that lawmakers could vote on during a special legislative session the governor scheduled for Feb. 19.
“There’s a meeting, and the speaker’s going to the meeting. There’s really not much more to say than that,” Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They’re all committed to solving the pension problem. We’ll continue to work on that.”
On Tuesday, Brown persistently refused to divulge where exactly Madigan was instead of meeting with Quinn and Cullerton, telling the Sun-Times nearly a dozen times that the speaker simply “wasn’t available.”
Asked again Friday for an explanation, Brown stuck to his vague talking point, responding to a text-message question on the speaker’s Tuesday whereabouts with one word: “Unavailable.”