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Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 12:18 am

Rough week for Madigan

PHOTO BY ALAN SOLOMON/TNS
“He seems so done with it all,” said one top Republican earlier last week about House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. “He hates this,” said a close Durkin pal not long afterward.

The overtime session’s constant battles with the House Democrats and super-strict marching orders from Gov. Bruce Rauner were wearing Durkin down, said some folks who know him. “This summer was pretty nasty,” he admitted to reporters last week.

But that changed by Tuesday. Asked to describe the progress of the previous few days on a scale of one to ten, a cheery Durkin replied “eight, nine, ten.” He seemed back on his game.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan clearly had a very bad week.

Madigan, who has long been considered the most successful Democratic politician in Illinois history, had hoped to finally knock down the Republican Rauner’s solid GOP legislative wall on Tuesday and force the House Republicans to defy their governor by voting to rescind Rauner’s slashing of the state’s child care program and social services for the elderly and disabled.

But the rug was pulled out from under Madigan. With the approval of Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, some Democratic legislators cut a deal with the governor to restore funding to those programs in exchange for killing the legislation. Madigan’s bills went nowhere.

So, instead of a defeated Leader Durkin, we saw an angry Speaker Madigan. And while the Speaker was obviously upset at one of his own members, Rep. Ken Dunkin, for working with Rauner and killing the bills in the House by refusing to vote, Madigan was also said to be pretty darned steamed about a possible conspiracy involving Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cullerton.

A top Madigan ally pointed to the personal relationship between Rauner and Emanuel, the number of contributors to Emanuel’s campaign fund who also gave to Rauner’s campaign fund as well as to the allegedly “Democratic” IllinoisGO PAC, which was founded earlier this year to promote “pro growth” Democratic policies, but which looks to many like a Rauner front group.

The source also highlighted Mayor Emanuel’s ties to IllinoisGO’s top consultant Greg Goldner of Resolute Consulting (whom Madigan called out by name during an earlier press conference this year for using the same rhetoric as Gov. Rauner in his PAC’s mailers targeting Madigan’s members). The Madigan people say the PAC is backing 15 candidates against House Democrats, although people who know better than I can find no actual evidence of this whatsoever. And it’s no secret that Emanuel lives in Cullerton’s district and the two men are close.

That’s a lot of paranoia for one day, but, man, were they ever upset.

The mayor’s people flatly denied that they had anything to do with Madigan being triangulated by Rauner and Cullerton. Yes, Emanuel canceled a scheduled city council hearing on the funding crisis at the child care program, which was designed to put even more pressure on Rauner. But that was done because Rauner had asked that they show a little good faith after Emanuel spent a solid week attacking the governor in the media.

As for Goldner, they said, he’s a Mayor Daley guy and isn’t really an Emanuel guy. “Greg has been out of favor with the mayor and his team for a long time,” insisted one longtime Emanuel insider last week.

And no way on God’s green Earth are they involved with Democratic primaries against any of Madigan’s members, they insisted. They know that Madigan would declare all-out war on them. They ain’t suicidal.

And Cullerton was probably just doing what Cullerton always does. The man truly loves making deals.

Gov. Rauner had threatened to sit on the bill to fix the child care program for two months if it was sent to his desk and then veto it in January, which would’ve undoubtedly put hundreds of smaller child care providers out of business in the meantime. A deal with Cullerton’s blessing made sure those providers stayed afloat, and it was backed by the provider community.

The legislative bottom line is that Madigan has been thwarted at pretty much every turn by Gov. Rauner. The overtime session has succeeded at collapsing the governor’s poll numbers, but Madigan hasn’t been able to take advantage of that in his own chamber, with his own super-majority.

The one thing that Madigan hates above anything and everything else is showing weakness. He most definitely didn’t look strong last week. He’s simply not accustomed to that. His next move should be fascinating.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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