Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has asked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to withdraw his pick for agriculture secretary, saying the nominee does not have the votes to get confirmed.
The Juneau Republican in a call with Evers Friday urged the first-term governor to remove Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff ahead of Tuesday's planned floor session in the chamber, a Fitzgerald spokesman said.
If senators successfully vote him down next week, he'll no longer be able to serve as the agency's head. Republicans have a 19-14 majority in the chamber, and they'd need at least 17 votes -- a simple majority -- to reject him.
The news was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"It is astonishing that, in the middle of a dairy crisis and trade war, Republicans want to create even more uncertainty and instability by firing the leader of the agency charged with fighting for Wisconsin's farmers and rural communities," Evers said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, Friday praised Pfaff has "a tireless advocate and ally for Wisconsin farmers" and slammed Republicans for "playing petty political games rather than doing what is right for Wisconsin families and local farms."
A spokeswoman for DATCP also did not return an email seeking comment.
Republicans and Pfaff went head-to-head this summer over the release of farmer mental health funding. At the time, Pfaff slammed GOP lawmakers on the budget committee for choosing "to leave farmers behind" after they didn't immediately act to free up $200,000 to support mental health initiatives for farmers across Wisconsin. The comments drew the ire of Republicans.
Pfaff, formerly the deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, previously served as executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.
He's not the only appointee lawmakers will consider when they convene Tuesday. Members are also planning to vote on Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable and Public Service Commission head Rebecca Valcq, according to a copy of the Senate calendar circulated Friday.
Other items on Tuesday's calendar include a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to curb governors' powerful partial veto authority say the effort ensures the Legislature retains its power of the purse and prevents unauthorized spending and a bill to end the sales tax that funded the construction and operation of Milwaukee's Miller Park.
So far, the state Senate has confirmed five of Evers' cabinet picks: Peter Barca, at the Department of Revenue; Joel Brennan, at the Department of Administration; Kathy Blumenfeld, at the Department of Financial Institutions; Kevin Carr, at the Department of Corrections; and Mary Kolar, at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A confirmation vote before the chamber is the final step to making their appointments as heads of various state agencies permanent.