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Wisconsin GOP-controlled Senate to vote on some of Gov. Evers’ 7 unconfirmed Cabinet secretaries

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FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during his address at the inauguration of Gov. Tony Evers, right, at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate on Friday scheduled confirmation votes next week for four of Gov. Tony Evers’ Cabinet secretaries.

Confirming the governor’s pick for top-level administration posts had been a pro forma courtesy that morphed into a yearslong partisan battle waged by Republicans after the Democratic Evers was elected in 2018.

Seven members of Evers’ 17-member cabinet have yet to been confirmed by the GOP-controlled state Senate.

Scheduled for approval on Tuesday are Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson — who has been at his position since Evers took office in 2019 — Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski; Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary Missy Hughes; and Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim, who also has been at her position since 2019.

All of them won unanimous, bipartisan support in committee votes.

Crim and Thompson are part of a slate of 39 appointments Senate leaders plan to put to a vote on Tuesday when the Legislature convenes both houses.

Not on the list is Sandra Naas, Evers’ pick back in May to replace Fred Prehn on the Natural Resources Board. Prehn, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has refused to step down since his termed ended in May. He believes he can hold the position until Naas is confirmed, which Republicans have refused to schedule.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit trying to force Prehn off the board, but a judge dismissed it. Kaul is appealing.

Also not scheduled for a vote are Karen Timberlake, who is leading the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as secretary of the Department of Health Services and Anne Pechacek, secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

All of them have been serving in their roles. But until they are confirmed, the Senate has the power to fire them by voting against confirmation. That’s what Republicans did to former agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff, who was elected to the Senate last year after he was fired in 2019.

Evers, who made a highly unusual personal appearance in the Senate the day of that vote, later called the Senate’s action “political B.S.” and “amoral and stupid.”

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said the governor was grateful the Senate was taking action on the governor’s Cabinet secretaries and dozens of other appointees to a variety of lower-level boards, committees and commissions. A couple of the more prominent positions up for confirmation include Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Daniel Carlton and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority executive director Joaquin Altoro.

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